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Parent's Guide

Eye Disease in Children



School-age children rarely have serious eye diseases, but there are three types of minor eye infections that may occur: blepharitis, conjunctivitis and sties.

Blepharitis

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids. It is characterized by a yellowish crust found at the base of the eyelashes and is often accompanied by tiny, whitish gray flakes that resemble dandruff.

Blepharitis may be caused by seborrhea, bacteria, viruses or fungi. Poor health, inadequate nutrition or careless hygiene are other causes. It may be accompanied by conjunctivitis, skin ulceration, loss of or misdirected lashes and other complications. The child may experience itching, burning, tearing and sensitivity to light.

The common, mild form of blepharitis will clear up with proper cleaning each morning and night. The more serious form, which is extremely rare, may require medication.

Conjunctivitis

The most common form of conjunctivitis in children is often called “pink eye,” as the eye tissue turns pink during the acute stage of the infection.

Pink eye can be accompanied by a yellowish discharge, excessive tearing, an uncomfortable feeling around the eye, itching and sometimes a sensitivity to bright light.

Pink eye may be bacterial, viral or allergic in origin. It is highly contagious and can be passed via towels, washcloths or bed linen. Although it usually clears in about a week, medication is needed in some cases, so it is best to have the child examined. When light sensitivity is involved, the child may need to wear sunglasses outdoors while recovering.

Sty

While a sty should be treated carefully, it is not considered dangerous. A sty resembles a pimple and is located at the edge of the eyelids. To avoid complications, a sty should never be squeezed.  Instead, a hot compress should be applied to bring it to a head. It should then break by itself.

Although rare, sties can lead to severe infection and swelling of the eyelids which requires immediate medical intervention. Therefore, it is best to have the child examined if any unusual swelling occurs.