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Five Facts about Children’s Visual Health

In honor of National Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, we are exploring five things all parents need to know about their children’s visual health, including what to do if you suspect a vision problem.

1. Good vision is key to your child’s academic success. Nearly 80 percent of learning occurs through visual activities, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA). While reading, children with untreated vision problems may have problems with attention, become fatigued easily, or have difficulty with comprehension. Some kids may avoid reading altogether. Vision problems can interfere with the ability to perform up to one’s potential in school

Pediatric eye exam2. Children may not realize they have vision issues. Children don’t often complain about vision problems, so it is important to be aware of the common signs and symptoms. They may indicate that your child is having difficulty with their eyes. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Frequent headaches
  • Continually rubbing or blinking their eyes
  • Covering one eye
  • Watery or red (inflamed) eyes
  • Squints frequently
  • Feels dizzy or nauseous while trying to focus
  • Sitting close to the TV or holding items close to their face
  • Tilting their head to the side
  • An eye that turns inward or outward
  • Seeing double
  • Short attention span
  • Losing their place while reading
  • Using their finger to keep their place when reading
  • Difficulty with hand-eye coordination while playing sports 

3. Vision exams are different from vision screenings. A school vision screening or pediatrician screening only tests for 20/20, and there is more to vision than 20/20. While vision screenings are good for detecting big changes in eyesight, they are not a substitute for a comprehensive vision exam performed by an optometrist. According to the AOA, approximately 60 percent of visual problems go undetected with just a vision screening. We also want to make sure that your child has good visual efficiency (ability to see clearly and comfortably over long periods of time) and visual processing (ability to make sense of incoming visual information). Your child should have their first comprehensive eye exam at six months, then again at age three if there were no problems found at their first exam. By the time they are school-aged, your child should have yearly eye exams with their optometrist. 

Pediatric patient at The Eye Institute4. Nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and amblyopia, also known as “lazy eye,” are some of the most common visual disorders in children, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  • Nearsightedness, or myopia, refers to the inability to see distant objects clearly.
  • Farsightedness, or hyperopia, prevents someone from seeing near objects clearly.
  • Astigmatism occurs when the cornea curves more in one direction than another, causing distorted or blurred vision. Astigmatism can occur in combination with nearsightedness and farsightedness.
  • Amblyopia or “lazy eye,” occurs when one or both eyes cannot see 20/20 even after correction with glasses. Amblyopia can be caused by the need for glasses, from an eye turn, or a combination of both. 

5. Concussions can be a cause for visual problems. Back to school often also means back to sports. Kids who play sports have an increased risk of injuries to their eyes, as well as concussions. It’s important to make sure your child wears the appropriate eyewear when playing sports. If an injury or concussion occurs, they should be removed from play and evaluated for any visual problems. Many symptoms include those listed above. Any time a child has a concussion, they should see an optometrist that specializes in the evaluation and treatment of visual problems associated with brain injuries. After appropriate time for rest and rehab, a child is often cleared to return to play.   

Examination and treatment of visual conditions are key to your child’s health. Schedule a comprehensive vision exam for your child today at one of The Eye Institute’s three locations.

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