Do You Know the Answers to These Must-Ask Questions About Kid's Eye Health?
Good vision is essential for brain development, fine motor skills, reading ability, and hand-eye coordination in children. Poor eye health can affect your child's coordination and depth perception, cause learning difficulties, or make it difficult to see well.
Fortunately, many eye health problems can be improved or overcome with prompt diagnosis and treatment. These questions are among the most important to ask about your child's visual health.
When Should My Child Receive an Eye Exam?
The American Optometric Association recommends that children receive the first eye examination between the ages of 6 to 12 months. After the initial baseline exam, kids should receive at least one comprehensive exam between 3 to 5 years and another examination before starting first grade. If your child doesn't have any vision problems during the first-grade visit, you can schedule exams every two years. Yearly visits are necessary if your child wears glasses or has a vision problem.
Does a School Eye Examination Count as a Comprehensive Eye Examination?
Although school screenings are important, they only involve a quick eye chart test and may not catch all types of vision problems. A comprehensive eye examination offered by optometrists and vision therapists includes a series of tests, in addition to a thorough examination. Vision tests help eye doctors diagnose eye movement or teaming problems, color blindness, depth perception issues, and other eye conditions.
How Can I Tell if My Son or Daughter Has a Vision Problem?
In some cases, your child may tell you that everything looks fuzzy or blurry or that words and letters jump on the page. Since vision problems can worsen gradually, your son or daughter may not be aware that there's a problem. You may notice one or more of these symptoms if your child has vision issues:
- Frequent headaches
- Eye pain
- Watery eyes when reading
- Fatigue after reading for a short time
- Head tilt when reading or looking at objects
- Poor hand-eye coordination and clumsiness
- Trouble distinguishing between left and right
- Difficulty catching or throwing a ball
- Inability to remember what he or she just read
- Slow reading speed
- Trouble copying words, letters, or numbers correctly
- Illegible handwriting
Children with vision problems may act out at school because reading is uncomfortable or difficult. In fact, some children are misdiagnosed with learning disorders or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when they actually have vision problems.
Can My Child Have a Vision Problem if He or She Has 20/20 Vision?
Visual acuity, the ability to see images clearly, is certainly an important aspect of good vision, but it's not the only one. If your child has 20/20 vision or wears glasses that correct vision to 20/20, he or she may still have one or more of these vision problems:
- Strabismus. Also called crossed eyes, strabismus occurs when the eyes are misaligned. As a result, the brain receives different information from each eye and struggles to produce a single, clear image.
- Amblyopia. Amblyopia, or lazy eye, happens when the brain ignores the information it receives from one eye, causing blurred or double vision, poor depth perception, and other issues. Amblyopia can occur if strabismus isn't treated.
- Eye Teaming Problems. Your child's eyes are designed to work together as a team. If they don't, blurred or double vision, headaches, and eyestrain may occur.
- Eye Tracking Issues. The ability to easily track moving objects with the eyes is also essential for good vision. If your child has an eye-tracking problem, reading or playing sports can be challenging.
These are just a few of the problems that can be diagnosed during a comprehensive eye examination. Any issues that affect the eyes, the optic nerves, or the way the brain processes or stores visual information can cause vision problems.
What Can Be Done About Vision Problems?
Eyeglasses will help your child see clearly if he or she has a refractive error, like nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, but won't do anything to correct other issues.
Fortunately, vision therapy can improve your child's vision if he or she has amblyopia, strabismus, eye teaming or tracking issues, and other problems. The therapy enhances the connection between the brain and the eyes using hands-on activities, computer games, prisms, special lenses, balance boards, and other devices.
Is your child due for a comprehensive eye examination? Contact our office to schedule a visit.
American Optometric Association: A Look at Reading and Vision
NJIT Magazine: Can Eye Therapy Be Fun?
NY Times: Vision Training to Boost Sports Performance, 5/6/14
American Optometric Association: Championing Children’s Eye Care, 7/24/19