Eye Am Ready For School
Parents do their best to prepare their kids for school. Research shows that 1 in 4 school-aged children has a vision problem. It is important to have a good idea of your child’s visual skills, since 80% of learning is visual for kids. Some children have been misdiagnosed as having learning or behavioural disabilities, when in fact the child and the parent did not know that there was a vision problem. A child may have a lazy eye but does not know that the way s/he sees is not normal. Fortunately, Alberta Health Care covers the cost of an eye exam from birth to age 18. So whether your child is a toddler getting ready for preschool, or an 18 year old post-secondary student, your government will help with a proper assessment of eye health and visual skills.
What is a comprehensive eye exam?
Dr. Leong and Dr. Bui start an eye exam with a series of questions that provide a clear understanding of medical history and family history, and how one mostly uses eyesight at home, school, work or play. Besides being able to see what the teacher writes on the board (distance visual acuity), visual skills include eye tracking, eye focusing, and eye teaming abilities. Reading or copying notes from the board can be difficult if a child has problems coordinating their eyes to use these visual skills. The health of the eye is examined on the eye surface as well as through the pupils inside the eyes. Often eye diseases such as glaucoma or diabetes can be detected by a thorough eye exam regardless whether a person does not have symptoms. Colour vision, peripheral vision, depth perception and vision assessment for glasses are also included in a complete eye exam.
When should children have their first eye exam?
Doctors of Optometry recommend that babies have their first eye exam at about 6 months of age. The eye doctor can observe if the eyes are focusing together, if the eyes are aligned, and if eye muscle movements are developing appropriately. Also, light reflexes from the child’s eyes can be examined to determine if vision is within a normal range, or if lazy eye or other abnormal development is occurring.
Children should have an annual eye exam as so much can change for a child within a year.
What are signs and symptoms that my child has a visual problem?
Tell-tale symptoms include eye rubbing, watering, eye fatigue, headaches, abnormal squinting or blinking, a lack of concentration skipping words or lines when reading or using a finger to follow the words when reading. Other signs include an eye that turns in or out, objects are held very close to the face, a child tends to cover or close an eye, or a child’s head is tilted when trying to see an object.
What causes poor eyesight in kids?
A recent Canadian study suggests that the onset of myopia (also known as nearsightedness) is starting at an earlier onset compared to previous generations. Currently almost 30% Canadian children ages 11-13 are myopic. Known risk factors for myopia include family history of nearsightedness, extended near work, not breast-fed as an infant, Asian descent, and insufficient time spent outdoors. There are numerous research studies on myopia control, and findings on preventing myopia progression include:
– increased time spent outdoors associated with reducing the risk of developing myopia.
– peripheral lens technology in special glasses such as Myovision or multifocal contact lens that has a central distance zone (MiSight)
– low concentration atropine eye drops to prevent accommodative spasm.
Optometrists hear many parents mourn over the hours of screen time by their children. Generally, the Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that toddlers and infants under age two should have zero screen time. General recommendations for children include limiting near tasks to a maximum of two hours per day, for tasks such as reading, use of handheld digital devices, and drawing.
What is Blue Light Hazard? Is it harmful to children?
Almost all digital devices (such as smartphones, tablets, computers) as well as light emitting fixtures such as fluorescent lamps, have light emitting diodes (LED) that radiate blue wavelength light. Blue light penetrates into deeper layers of the eye compared to other lights. This can cause headache, eyestrain, and reduced attention span. Research also indicates that long term exposure can cause degeneration of the back layer of the eye, the retina. The effects of overexposure to blue light and UV light at a younger age may not show up until later in life with higher risk of cataracts and age related macular degeneration. Limiting screen time for your child, especially before going to sleep will prevent problems sleeping. The same goes for adults, too, if they have trouble getting a full night’s rest. Eyewear is available with blue light blocker coatings to reduce the effects of blue light.
What are Common Eye Conditions that Affect Children?
Your optometrist can assess and treat for many vision conditions such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Eye coordination disorders such as amblyopia (lazy eye) or strabismus (crossed eyes) are important to detect and treat before the age of seven to avoid permanent decrease of vision in the lazy eye. Eye diseases such as pink eye by infection, allergy or chemical can also be treated by your eye doctor.
The mission of Foresight Eyecare is to provide 20/20 eyeesight, optimizing vision and eye health by recommending leading edge optical solutions for your eyes. Check out our website articles and nutrition tab for more healthy eye tips to keep them at their best at school, home and play.
By Dr. Dianna Leong, B.Sc., O.D