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Friday, August 7, 2015

Importance of Childhood Eye Exams

It's back to school time and time to get our children prepared to head back. As I have shared this includes school supplies, physicals, dental visits and eye exams. While most parents make annual visits to the doctor and dentist often the eye doctor is over looked. However, regular eye exams are important for both children who wear glasses and those that do not. The American Optometry Association (AOA) estimates that 1 in 4 children have vision related problems. These problems can lead to problems in school with their learning, development, athletic performance, and overall health.

Children with poor vision have difficulty focusing on what they cannot see clearly. This leads to learning and attention problems. The AOA estimates that 60% learning disabilities are associated with vision problems

Childrens development can be affected by eye problems as well. Learning, behavior and development can all be affected by a child's physical and neurological development as well. Eye muscle imbalance or "crossed eyes" or "wandering eyes" can lead to "lazy eye". The condition leads to the brain suppressing vision from one eye to avoid seeing double and may lead to permanent vision loss. My grandson (son's son) was born with a condition that is making his eyes go crossed and the doctors are looking at doing a surgery on his eyes to help correct problems We have noticed that his development has been slowed because of his condition and we wonder what he actually sees.

Eye problems caused by irregularities or eye muscle imbalance can affect depth perception which leads to clumsiness, tripping and poor hand eye condition. This leads to the student suffering with physical abilities and athletic performance. Our grand-son who has vision problems has frequent falls and is often unsteady on his feet. Again we hope the possible surgery will help.

Most childhood eye conditions can be corrected or effectively treated when caught early. Eye exams are the best way to ID and diagnose problems. The problem is that many children do not have opportunity to visit the eye doctor because of a few different reasons.

First many believe if there is no problem then why is an eye doctor appointment needed. The problem with this is that when you begin to notice symptoms it may be to late and the child has already started suffering like headaches, learning and behavior problems. Regular eye exams can catch problems early before negative effects begin.

Yet, another reason that children do not see eye doctors on a regular basis is that the school or doctor gives eye screenings and the child passes. Screenings fail to ID problems 1 in 3 cases or that your child has a 33% chance that a routine screening will not detect problems. Screenings last 3 to 5 minutes and are not as thorough as a comprehensive eye exam last 30 to 60 minutes. Screenings are intended to catch obvious symptoms and to refer them to the eye doctor. Eye exams are diagnostic and provide a complete assessment of vision and eye health. Furthermore, an eye exam is performed by an eye doctor while an eye screening has no set standards. The eye doctor also performs an eye exam that assesses the eye muscles and their ability to track, the inside of the eye where any serious medical conditions would be evident.

AOA recommends eye exams:
  • First 12 months – Infants, particularly premature babies, should have an eye exam in the first 12 months.
    • Age 2 or 3 years – Preschool is a critical time for learning.  Preschoolers should have an eye exam when they are old enough to understand and respond to the exam.
    • Age 5 – Kindergarten is also a critical time for learning.  Kindergartners should have an eye exam before entering school.
    • Children without identified vision problems should then have a comprehensive eye exam every two years.
    • Children who wear glasses or who have other eye conditions should see the eye doctor at least annually, or more often, as recommended by the doctor.

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