One in Four School-Age Children Have Some Form of Vision Problems: The First Test Your Kids Take This Year Should Be Their Eye Exam.

We’re less than a month away from the beginning of the school year for most children, and while that meansScheduling Regular Eye Exams for Your Children Ensures Healthy Vision for Life shopping for school supplies and back-to-school clothes (as well as maybe fitting in one last family vacation), one area that you’ll want to make sure you don’t neglect is your child’s vision.

Healthy vision and the ability to effectively learn go hand-in-hand.  If fact, when a child is experiencing difficulty in school, exhibits signs of a learning disorder or suddenly (or sometimes gradually) experiences a decline in grades, the first stop should be the eye doctor.

Since 80 percent of a child’s learning is visual, a child’s ability to clearly see the blackboard and the words on a page is critical.  Prevent Blindness America, the nation’s oldest volunteer eye health and safety organization, has declared August as Children’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness month in an effort to encourage parents to learn about ways they can help protect their child’s vision.

One in four school-age children and one in 20 pre-schoolers have some form of a vision problem. Sometimes the signs are immediately apparent, for example squinting, eyes crossing, holding objects near the face or sitting closer to the television than normal.  In other instances, the problems may be less recognizable and require a thorough pediatric eye exam or at least a vision screening to identify.

The Importance of Early Detection of Eye Disorders & Vision Problems

Early detection and prompt treatment of ocular disorders in children is important to avoid lifelong visual impairment. It also can improve performance in school and reduce behavioral and learning problems.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends regular and ongoing  examination of the eyes beginning at birth.  The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that children should generally should have their first eye exam at six months of age, another exam at age three and again at the start of school. Risk-free children should then continue to have their eyes examined every two years until age 18.  However, children who currently wear glasses or contact lenses should have yearly check ups.

More frequent eye exams in children are especially important if there is a history of eye disease, were born very premature; have family histories of congenital cataracts, retinoblastoma, and metabolic or genetic diseases; those who have significant developmental delay or neurologic difficulties; were born to a mother who had an infection during pregancy (rubella, venereal disease, HIV/AIDS, herpes, etc.,) and those with systemic disease associated with eye abnormalities (such as childhood diabetes.)

“But I Can See Fine, Mom.” Maybe Not.

But what if your child, ‘tween or teen says they can see just fine? Why regular eye exams?

Often, children and young adults do not always know when their vision has become fuzzy, because they’ve adapted to it and think it’s what everyone else sees. It’s not until you perform a refraction that they suddenly see how sharp the world can be if their vision is corrected.

Second, regular, comprehensive eye exams performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist can uncover hidden vision health issues, and even systemic health issues.  An eye exam with dilation can expose tumors or diseases of the eye, as well as help identify amblyopia (lazy eye) or strabismus (improperly aligned eyes.)  If your child has diabetes, they should have a full eye exam with dilation once a year.

Can My Child’s Primary Care Doctor Perform an Eye Exam?

While your pediatrician can perform a basic external exam of the eyes during your child’s regular check-ups, they do not have the equipment nor training of an optometrist or ophthalmologist.  In fact, many states require that children entering school have a complete eye exam performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.  A typical pediatric or young adult eye exam performed by an optometrist will include refraction, dilated fundus examination, visual acuity, ocular alignment, binocularity, color vision testing, as well a ocular pressure testing.

If your child is above 3 years of age and has never had a comprehensive eye exam from an optometrist or ophthalmologist,  make this year a first.

Signs That Your Child Needs an Eye Exam

If you are noticing any of the following symptoms in your child, ‘tween or teen, you should schedule an eye exam as soon as possible.

What do your child’s eyes look like?

  • eyes don’t line up, one eye appears crossed or looks out!
  • eyelids are red-rimmed, crusted or swollen
  • eyes are watery or red (inflamed)

How does your child act?

  • rubs eyes a lot
  • closes or covers one eye
  • tilts head or thrusts head forward
  • has trouble reading or doing other close-up work, or holds objects close to eyes to see
  • blinks more than usual or seems cranky when doing close-up work
  • things are blurry or hard to see
  • squints eyes or frowns

What does your child say?

  • “My eyes are itchy,” “my eyes are burning” or “my eyes feel scratchy.”I can’t see very well.”
  • After doing close-up work, your child says “I feel dizzy,” “I have a headache” or “I feel sick/nauseous.”
  • “Everything looks blurry,” or “I see double.”

How To Learn More About Caring for Your Child’s Vision

For more information helping your children have healthy vision now and for life, check out the Star Pupils website, from Prevent Blindness America.  Star Pupils is a program specifically designed to educate parents on what they can do to ensure healthy eyesight for their kids.  Parents can log on to Starpupils.org and receive free information on everything from common eye conditions in children to tips on how to protect eyes from injury while playing sports.

Category : Children's Vision Care / Vision Care

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