If you’re like most parents, you’re fairly confident that you’d be able to tell if your child was having trouble seeing. Unfortunately, this is very rarely the case. Children are often unable to express that they are experiencing issues, or don’t realize the difficulty they are having at all. This means that, in many cases, their vision problems will remain undiagnosed and untreated, leading to difficulties in school and extracurricular activities. Many eye or vision problems don’t show symptoms until they have progressed significantly, often making the condition harder to treat.
Conditions such as amblyopia (lazy eye) or strabismus (crossed-eyes) can be corrected more effectively when they are diagnosed and treated at a young age.
The sooner you diagnose and correct a vision problem, the sooner your child will be able to achieve his or her potential in school and in life. It’s critical to have your child’s eyes examined by an eye doctor at least once every year. Here are some FAQ’s and answers about Children’s Vision that every parent should know:
Q: When should my child have an eye exam, and how often?
A: The American and Canadian Optometric Associations officially recommend that infants should have their first eye exams around the age of 6 months. If your eye doctor doesn’t detect anything wrong with your baby’s eyes, they will recommend that you bring them in again for another exam at 3 years, and then once again just before they start kindergarten. It is recommended that they have an eye exam before every school year after that.
Of course if your child is experiencing difficulty in school or after school activities that may be due to a vision problem schedule an eye exam immediately.
Q: Does my still need an eye exam if a school vision screening says they have 20/20 vision?
A: Yes. Basic vision screenings like those performed in schools assess whether the child sees clearly at a distance, but are not able to detect much else about your child’s ability to see. Functional vision such as your child’s ability to focus, track words on a page or the eyes’ ability to work in tandem go completely untested in school screenings. They also do not look at the health of the eye itself, meaning they will not detect signs of potentially sight-threatening eye diseases. Eye exams with a professional and knowledgable eye doctor are essential to know the comprehensive picture of how healthy the eyes are and how well they are doing their job.
Studies shown that up to 43% of children with vision problems can pass a vision screening test. A comprehensive eye exam will thoroughly assess their full visual system as well as color vision, depth perception, and eye coordination.
Q: My child was diagnosed with strabismus and amblyopia. What are treatment options?
A: Chances of a complete correction for strabismus and amblyopia are quite good when treated properly. This is especially true when it is caught at a young age. The ideal age for detection and treatment to take place is before around 8 to 10 years old. Depending on the severity of the strabismus (crossed-eye), surgery may be required to straighten and properly align the crossed eyes. Amblyopia (lazy eye) can then be treated using eyeglasses, eye patching, or vision therapy to strengthen the weak eye and train the eyes to work together. Your Somerset pediatric optometrist can assess the severity of your child’s condition and discuss treatment options with you.
Q: What is vision therapy?
A: Vision therapy is a doctor-supervised, individualized program of exercises to strengthen coordination between both eyes and the brain. It is used to correct issues with eye alignment, focusing, coordination, tracking and more. Vision therapy often utilizes tools such as specialized lenses or prisms and involves both at-home and in-office exercises to fully correct target issues. The process usually takes about 6 months to see lasting improvement.
Q: My son’s nearsightedness keeps getting worse – he needs a new prescription every year. Is there a way to stop this?
A: There is research that shows that progressive myopia can be stopped or slowed during the childhood years. There are a number of therapies that are used for what is called “myopia control” including multifocal eyeglasses or contact lenses, orthokeratology (ortho-k) or atropine eye drops. Speak to a pediatric optometry specialist to learn more about the options and what might work best for your child.
Q: Every morning it is a fight to get my child to wear her glasses. What can I do?
A: It may take time for your child to adapt to the feel of the glasses and to be comfortable seeing with them. For little children, you can find glasses that come with integrated headbands that can help to hold the glasses in place. It helps to be consistent in putting them on to allow the child to adapt to the feel of the glasses.
Very often, especially for small children that can’t tell you what is bothering them, the reason for a child’s refusal to wear glasses is that something is not comfortable. It could be that the prescription is not right, that the glasses pinch or that are feeling heavy. It could be worthwhile to take the glasses back to the eye doctor to ensure that they are in fact a proper fit.
Q: At what age is it acceptable for a child to wear contact lenses?
A: Eye care experts tend not to give a hard-and-fast age for first introducing a child to contacts. They can be a great alternative to glasses for those in search of a new look or patients who want to free themselves from the constraints of glasses, but at the end of the day, contacts are a medical device that must be treated with proper care and hygiene.
Improper wear and care of contacts can cause serious eye infections, a scratched cornea or significant permanent vision loss.
To determine whether your child is ready for contacts, you should evaluate if they are responsible enough to take care of their lenses properly by consistently cleaning them and storing them according to your eye doctor’s instructions. They should also be responsible enough to know not to sleep in their contacts (unless the lenses are specifically meant for this) and to always have clean hands when inserting and removing their contacts.
Consult with your eye doctor about what would be best for your child.