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EYE EXAMS FOR KIDS: 7 QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Aug, 20 2014

Do you believe this stat: it’s estimated that 10 million US children fail each year in school due to vision disorders? That’s from a recent white paper by Essilor, the world’s leading provider of eyeglass lenses. Studies by The Annals of Family Medicine show that vision impairment occurs in 5-10% of pre-school age children and The American Optometric Association (AOA) says 25% of school-age children have vision problems.

In addition to those eye-opening (pun intended) stats, we only get one set of eyes, so it’s important to take care of them – especially, for the small fries! 

We’re sharing answers to 7 burning questions about eye exams for kids…

1) When should my child have their first eye exam? 

Your family doctor or pediatrician will probably be the first medical professional to examine your child's eyes. According to the AOA, infants should have their first eye exam at 6 months of age. The next should occur at age 3, and then again just before they enter the first grade. 

2) How often should I have my child’s eyes examined?

For school-aged children, the AOA recommends an eye exam every 2 years if no vision correction is required. Children who need eyeglasses or contact lenses should be examined annually or according to your eye doctor’s recommendations. By the way, mom and dad, don’t forget your eyes, too! In this article, we share 7 reasons you need an eye exam. 

3) What’s the difference between a vision screening and an eye exam?

According to visionaware.org, a vision screening is a relatively short examination that can indicate a potential vision problem. A vision screening can’t diagnose exactly what’s wrong, but it can indicate it’s time for a full vision exam. Screenings are typically performed by a pediatrician or family physician, and they’re offered at many schools.

In contrast, a full eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist generally lasts between 30 and 60 minutes and can help diagnose specific visual problems. It involves a thorough investigation of the overall health of the eye and the visual system.

4) Can I tell if my child has a potential vision problem?

Yes, there are signs that your child could be experiencing some vision problems. Teachers are a great resource and will let you know if they’re noticing issues with your child’s vision. According to kidshealth.org, these are some of the most common, so be on the lookout (no pun intended)! If you notice any of these, make an appointment soon because many eye conditions can be corrected if caught early.

**constant eye rubbing
**extreme light sensitivity
**poor focusing
**poor visual tracking (following an object)
**abnormal alignment or movement of the eyes (after 6 months of age)
**crossed eyes
**chronic redness of the eyes
**chronic tearing of the eyes
**a white pupil instead of black

In school-age children, other signs to watch for include:

**being unable to see objects at a distance
**having trouble reading a blackboard
**squinting

**sitting too close to the TV
**difficulty reading

Image removed.

5) Are there common vision problems that go unnoticed?



VSP eye doctor, Dr. McQuillan has this to say:

“The most common is a problem with eye coordination. Just like some kids are ‘clumsy,’ eyes can be clumsy too. The problem is called ‘binocular vision dysfunction,’ and it frequently won’t show up in a screening. It can cause reading problems. Farsightedness, where you can’t see up close, is also missed a lot in screenings.
 Another condition I’ve occasionally treated, after it was previously overlooked during a screening, is amblyopia, or ‘lazy eye.’ This is where one eye wanders and doesn’t join the other eye in focusing. In return, the brain learns to ignore the visual input from the lazy eye. Lifelong vision loss can result if the problem isn’t addressed.”

6) Why is a vision exam important for academic success?

According to the AOA:

“..vision is more than just the ability to see clearly or having 20/20 eyesight. It is also the ability to understand and respond to what is seen. Basic visual skills include the ability to focus the eyes, use both eyes together as a team, and move them effectively. Other visual perceptual skills include:

**recognition (the ability to tell the difference between letters like ‘b’ and ‘d’),
**comprehension (to ‘picture’ in our mind what is happening in a story we are reading), and
**retention (to be able to remember and recall details of what we read).

…If any of these visual skills are lacking or not functioning properly, a child will have to work harder. This can lead to headaches, fatigue and other eyestrain problems.”

If this can be avoided for $100 and an hour of your time every couple years, it’s totally worth it!

7) How can I prepare my child for an eye exam?

As with anything, honesty is the best policy! The good news here is that there isn’t anything scary like shots or invasive testing to worry about. WebMD gives this simple advice:

“Make time to sit down and explain what will happen during your child's eye exam. Make sure your child knows that he or she will be asked to look at and identify objects for the eye doctor. These could be pictures, letters, or shapes of light on the wall. Explain also that the eye doctor may put drops in his or her eyes but it will not hurt. Eye drops may sting a bit but only for a moment. Be honest with your child and work with your doctor to reassure your child.” 

Click here for a great video explaining an eye exam from a kid’s point of view (again, no pun intended). More good news: everyone passes this exam!

Now, it’s your turn to tell your story! Did you have eye exams as a child? Do your kids get regular eye exams? Why or why not?

Heidi

Heidi has a passion for helping busy families control their healthcare dime, time and peace of mind! She writes articles to do just that, while keeping it fun and simple for her readers! She also speaks on healthcare issues and is the owner of www.freshbenies.com.

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