Back to School – Children and Vision
Summer always seems to fly by so quickly! Kids are preparing to head back to school and August/early fall is a perfect time to consider an eye exam. Here are some important facts about children’s eyes and vision.
Preschoolers generally will not voice complaints about their eyes; however, approximately 10% of children this age have eye or vision problems. Typically at this age, pediatricians look for concerns, such as eye turns or developmental delays. We advise annual ocular and visual screenings with your child’s pediatrician for infants and preschoolers. If there are any concerns, a specialist should be consulted as soon as possible.
When children make the transition to the school years (age 5 and above), an annual ocular examination by a specialist (Ophthalmologist or Optometrist) is highly recommended. As with preschoolers, school-aged children often do not voice complaints due to the fact they are unaware of what they should be seeing. It’s important to have a baseline exam by the time children enter school (around the age of 5) so that development and learning potential are optimal.
Most adults have their eyes examined because they are experiencing blurred vision. Blurred vision is not a common complaint of children. School vision screenings are useful in determining a child’s distance visual acuity, or how well a child sees in the distance. However, school vision screenings do not compare to a comprehensive eye and vision examination. Studies show that as many as 60% of children with vision problems may be overlooked during school screenings. For example, screenings typically do not test for near vision. With our ever growing technological world, most children are using iPads and computers at a young age. Near vision is not only important for reading, but also for most learning activities. If you’re concerned your child might have visual difficulties, common things to look for include children complaining of headaches, squinting, sitting close to the TV, holding a book too close, avoiding coloring activities, frequent eye rubbing, decreased attention span for the child’s age, an eye turn, sensitivity to light, and difficulty with eye-hand-body coordination when playing ball or bike riding.
Approximately 80% of blindness is avoidable (treatable and/or preventable). Worldwide, 145 million people have low vision due to uncorrected refractive errors. In most cases, normal vision could be restored with eye glasses or contact lenses. Timing is crucial in visual development as most eye conditions are optimally treated early. Studies show that amblyopia (lazy eye) needs to be corrected before the age of 10; otherwise there is a low chance of ever correcting to 20/20 (perfect vision). Glasses prescribed during childhood not only prevent vision impairments but also ensure proper visual development for your child’s future including driving and visually demanding career choices.
Many children play sports, and an eye injury during sporting events is the most common form of eye injury among children age 5 to 14. Annually, 2.5 million eye injuries occur and 50,000 people permanently lose part or all of their vision. Studies show that 90% of all eye injuries can be prevented by using protective eyewear.
Most people think that eye exams are only important to help your child if he or she has trouble seeing; however, eye exams are also important by helping to prevent eye injuries, diagnose and treat eye conditions and diseases, and ensure optimal development and learning potential.
Make sure that an eye exam is on your list of things to do to prepare to head back to school. Children’s vision is just as unique as each child is, so keep in mind it is normal for children’s vision to change throughout the growing years. We recommend a yearly exam for every child. We would be happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have, please contact our office.
-Alisha Fleming, OD