Children’s Ocular Health
Why is it so important to have your child’s vision checked?
It is extremely important to check your child’s vision from a very young age! Vision is a huge part of a child’s development, and it is best to catch any problems early on and find a solution quickly. Vision problems can hurt a child’s school performance, as much of what they learn there is presented visually. Children don’t know how their vision “should be”, so having your child’s eyes checked is the best way to catch any potential problems. It is better to get a full eye exam than to rely on the results of the simple vision check that children receive at a regular doctor’s appointment.
When should you have your child’s vision checked?
Doctors recommend that children get their eyes checked first at the age of 6 months. While this may seem young, it is around this time when a child has sharper and more accurate color vision. It is also the time when vision problems begin to manifest themselves. If there are no problems, children should get their eyes checked again at age 3 years, and then again right before they start school. These are formative times when vision problems appear. If your child does have some sort of vision problem, it is important to take corrective measures immediately. It is also important to schedule appointments at the times of day your child is most focused. You don’t want to take them to get their eyes checked when they are tired, cranky, or hungry if you want to get accurate results.
What are common vision problems in children, and how do you correct them?
Some of the most common vision problems children experience are nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, lazy eyes, and crossed eyes. The first three are caused refractive errors and can be easily corrected with glasses or contacts, and in serious cases, surgery. Lazy eyes, while sometimes initially caused by refractive issues, can require more extensive correction. These issues occur when one eye has better vision than the other, or the eyes are crossed. The brain begins to only acknowledge input from the stronger eye, and the weaker eye is ignored. If it is not corrected, the brain will ignore the weaker eye to the point of it shutting down, potentially causing permanent vision loss. Lazy eye can be fixed with patching the stronger eye to force the weaker one to grow stronger. If a child constantly removes the patch, there are other options, including special eye drops and contacts that block light. Crossed eyes occur when the eyes fail to align and work together. This can be caused by extreme farsightedness, a problem in the muscles of the eye, or issues in the nerves or vision centers of the brain. This can lead to double vision, or in severe cases, to a lazy eye as discussed above. Crossed eyes can be treated with prescription lenses, vision therapy, or surgery, depending on the seriousness of the issue.
While excessive reading as a child is not a scientifically proven cause of nearsightedness, studies have shown that having children simply go outside can greatly reduce the chance of nearsightedness and other vision problems, or at least slow their progression. It is important for kids to take a break from electronic devices especially, and to rest their eyes after extensive time reading. Getting outside allows them to do just that, encourages exercise, and helps with overall health. It’s important that they wear sunglasses while outside, though, to protect their vision from harmful UV.
Signs that there may be a problem:
Common symptoms of vision problems or vision-related learning disabilities are headaches, eye strain, blurred or double vision, crossed eyes, short attention spans during reading, turning or tilting of the head to only use one eye when reading, reading with head very close to the book, excessive blinking and rubbing of the eyes, losing place frequently when reading, poor comprehension or retention, omitting or repeating words while reading, and poor hand-eye coordination. These do not always mean that there is a problem, but they are an indication that your child should get their eyes checked. Just remember, a vision problem does not mean your child has a learning disability. Color blindness, difficulty focusing the eyes when reading, refractive errors, and perception problems can slow learning, but with the proper treatment, your child should be fine!
Picking children’s eyewear:
There are lots of options now in children’s eyewear that are both durable and cute, and will appeal to children. Getting your child to wear the glasses can be a big battle, though. If your child needs eyeglasses, involve them in the process of choosing them. If your child helps to pick the frames, he or she will be much more motivated to actually wear the glasses. You can encourage them during the process by reminding them of how these glasses will make things better, for example: “You’ll be able to see the ball so much better when you play with your friends.” Make sure the glasses are comfortable!
Good Looks Eyewear in Pittsburgh and Cranberry offers comprehensive and routine eye exams, eye care, and collections of children’s eyewear. Come by for an eye exam and check out our selections of frames!