“I’d know if my child had issues with their eyes or vision, wouldn’t I?”
This thought occurs to many parents who have children with eye and vision problems, including refractive errors such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism, or visual skill deficiencies such as problems with eye teaming and tracking.
Unfortunately, in most cases, this sentiment is far from true.
The truth is that many eye or vision problems don’t show any symptoms until they have progressed significantly. And even when symptoms do present themselves, your child may not notice them, or may not have the ability to express what they’re experiencing.
Often vision problems will be overlooked or misdiagnosed as conditions such as ADHD based on associated behavioral issues that come as a result of frustration.
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. Further, the sooner you diagnose and correct a vision problem, the sooner your child will be able to achieve his or her potential without struggling with these difficulties.
This is why it is critical to have regular pediatric eye exams with our local Norfolk eye doctor at Southern Eyecare Associates.
Our kids’ eye care team has compiled our top FAQ’s about children’s vision that every parent should know:
Q: At what ages should children have eye exams?
A: Both the American and Canadian Optometric Associations recommend that your child’s first eye exam should be at 6 months old. If your optometrist doesn’t find any issues with your child’s vision, your child should have another eye exam at 3 years old and then again prior to entering kindergarten to check for eye and vision problems that could impact their learning as they begin school.
Once they begin school, children who do not require vision correction or vision therapy should have an eye-wellness checkup once a year. Those who use vision correction may be asked to come in more often.
Of course, if your child is experiencing difficulty in school or after-school activities that may be due to a vision problem, you should schedule an eye exam with an eye doctor near you immediately.
Q: My child passed a vision screening by the nurse at school. Does he still need an eye exam?
Though many schools implement a basic vision screening test to assess your child’s distance vision, these tests are limited in scope and do not assess essential visual skills such as the child’s ability to focus and track words on a page or the eyes’ ability to work in tandem.
Vision screenings also do not look at the health of the eye itself, which can lead to eye diseases and conditions being missed that can cause severe and irreversible damage to your child’s eyes and vision if not detected and treated early.
Studies show that up to 43% of children can still pass a vision screening test despite the fact that they have serious vision and eye health problems.
A comprehensive eye exam will assess all of these functions as well as color vision, depth perception, and eye coordination.
Q: Can my child’s strabismus or amblyopia be treated?
A: Chances of a complete correction for strabismus and amblyopia are good, especially when diagnosed early and treated properly. The best age for diagnosis and treatment of these eye conditions is before 8-10 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. Our Norfolk eye doctors specialize in pediatric optometry, and can assess your child’s condition and discuss treatment options on an individual basis.
Q: What is vision therapy?
A: Vision therapy is a doctor-supervised, individualized program of eye exercises to strengthen the functions of the eye. It is used to correct issues with visual skills such as eye alignment, focusing, coordination, tracking and more. Vision therapy often utilizes tools such as specialized lenses or prism glasses and involves exercises both during office visits and at home to reinforce the changes. The process usually takes about 6 months to see lasting improvement.
Q: Is there a way to stop my son’s nearsightedness from getting worse?
A: There is research that shows that progressive myopia can be stopped or slowed during childhood using an eye care method called “myopia control.” Tools that your local optometrist may use include multifocal eyeglasses or contact lenses, orthokeratology (ortho-k) and atropine eye drops. Speak to a pediatric optometry specialist to learn more about the options and what might work best for your child.
Q: What can I do to encourage my child to wear their glasses?
A: It may take time for your child to adapt to the feel of wearing glasses and to be comfortable seeing with them. Glasses for babies and small children often come with integrated headbands that can help to hold the glasses in place. Making sure they put their glasses on consistently will allow your child to adapt to the feel of 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 their nose or ears or that the glasses feel heavy. It could be worthwhile to take the glasses back to the eye doctor to ensure that they fit properly.
Q: At what age can my child wear contact lenses?
A: Contact lenses can be really convenient, especially for kids that are active or tend to break or lose their glasses. However, it’s important to treat contact lenses with proper care and use good hygiene. If a child is not responsible enough to take care of them properly they could end up with a serious eye infection, a scratched cornea or worse.
Though there is technically no minimum age, most eye care experts agree that contact lenses can be considered for children starting between the ages of 10 and 12, depending on the child’s maturity and cleanliness.
Consult with your eye doctor about what would be best for your child.
Have more questions for our optometrists about your child’s eye care and eyewear needs? Pay us a visit at Southern Eyecare Associates in Norfolk, Virginia today!