Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Back to School Time: August is Children's Eye Health and Safety Month

Hello everyone,

It's back to school time. And you know what that means! School buses are back on the roads. Morning and afternoon commutes are taking a bit longer than usual. Kids are hitting snooze on their alarm clocks as they dread leaving their warm beds in the morning to get ready for school.

It also means that August is Children's Eye Health and Safety Month: a time to bring awareness to parents to make sure their children have healthy eyes and that they are seeing well. During summer vacation, kids play outside a lot, so their visual requirements for reading and studying are probably at a low point. However, as an optometrist, I've noticed that at "back to school" time, children start complaining of not being able to see the board in the front of the room, or they're getting headaches or double vision when they read for a while.

It's important for kids to see well in order to be able to learn well. More than 80 percent of early learning is visual. What can be misinterpreted as laziness, lack of interest, of poor intelligence be actually be trouble seeing in a young child.

The most common vision problem in kids is nearsightedness. Myopia, or nearsightedness, is being able to see up close, but not far away. There are many different degrees of myopia, so a kid with mild myopia may be able to squeak by the school's vision screening exam by squinting. Other issues, such as astigmatism and farsightedness (hyperopia), can also cause blurred vision and trouble reading.

Other major issue in young children is amblyopia, which is where one eye does not develop properly, resulting in poor vision compared to the fellow eye. This happens when one eye has an eye turn or when one eye has a high prescription compared to the other eye.

Everyone has two eyes, and people use their two eyes, together, all of the time. So if one eye is blurry, it can easily be ignored or overlooked because of the great vision of the better seeing eye. This is why it is important for every child to get an eye exam, EVEN IF THEY ARE NOT COMPLAINING OF BLURRED VISION, because amblyopia is treatable, but only if it is diagnosed at an early age and treated appropriately.

Obviously, as an astute parent, if your child is obviously complaining of blurred vision, it's easy to make the decision to bring them in for an eye exam. However, the parent should also look to see if the child has any of the following symptoms:
  • Frequent eye rubbing or blinking 
  • Squinting
  • Headaches
  • Covering one eye
  • Short attention span
  • Avoiding reading assignments or holding reading materials close to the face
  • A turned eye
  • Double vision
  • Losing place when reading
  • Difficulty with reading retention
These symptoms can also be the result of trouble with eye focusing, eye tracking and eye coordination problems, which can all affect school performance.

According to the American Optometric Association, many children are mislabeled as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), when they many actually have an undiagnosed vision problem. Vision is an important component in learning. A child with blurred vision or focusing problems doesn't know any better because they don't have the perspective of perfect functioning visual system.

So, that's children's vision in a nutshell. If there are any visual concerns with your child, make sure to bring them in for an eye exam sooner than later.

Dr. Weaver

Ps. And check out our Merchandiser advertising over the next month for our "Back To School" savings for eyeglasses.