Vision Screening Are Not Enough.
If 80% of what you learn is visual, then why aren’t parents flocking in droves to the nearest eye doctor to have their child’s eyes evaluated?
I could retire early if I received a dollar for every time I heard a parent use one of these phrases:, “my child can see 20/20”, or “no one in the family wears glasses” better yet, “my child is too young to need glasses” and don’t forget “my child passed the screening at the Pediatrician’s office.”
As an eye doctor, these common misconceptions regarding eye health and vision among children make me want to hang my head. Then my compassion and parental instincts kick-in. I first ask myself, “why do parents take eye health and vision evaluations for granted? Why does simply reading a chart at school or the Pediatrician’s office constitute an eye exam for most parents?”
The simple answer is “Parents just don’t understand.”
Most eye problems that children experience are not heavily symptomatic in the early stages. In fact, some eye conditions can wreak havoc on a child’s reading fluency, reading comprehension, and hand-eye coordination with very few obvious signs. Thus, parents must understand the negative impact visual dysfunction has on development. So, let’s chat about 3 reasons why your child should have a comprehensive eye exam with an eye doctor by the age of 3.
Three Reasons to Schedule your child’s first eye exam by the Age of 3:
Amblyopia: Amblyopia occurs when a person’s vision is not correctable to 20/20, despite wearing glasses or contacts. This happens because the eye and the brain do not speak to each other correctly. The eye becomes weak, hence the term “lazy eye.” Amblyopia typically occurs in one eye; thankfully we have two eyes. This blessing is also the main reason why amblyopia goes undetected in young children. A child won’t notice nor complain that their vision is not clear in one eye. Many times, children with amblyopia can only be detected via a comprehensive dilated eye exam with an eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist).
Strabismus: Strabismus refers to an “eye turn”, the eye will either turn in or out from the nose. If not treated early, strabismus can have a negative impact on the binocular system and developmental milestones. Sometimes the eye turn is so slight and intermittent that it can only be revealed during a comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist).
Refractive errors: Most common vision disorders in children are refractive errors, which include Myopia, Hyperopia, and Astigmatism. Refractive errors refer to light not focusing properly on the retina resulting in blurry vision.
Three Common Types of refractive error:
- Myopia (near-sightedness): blurry vision in the distance and intermediate range. Myopia is most common in children 11-15 years of age. A study conducted by National Eye Institute found that the prevalence of myopia has increased 66% for those 12 to 54 years of age in the US, between 1971-2004. Many eye doctors believe children are spending less time outside and more time on a tablet or device, causing the rise in myopia.
- Hyperopia (far-sightedness): blurry vision in the near and intermediate range. It is most common in children 3-5 years of age. Undetected hyperopia can have a significant impact on reading fluency and reading comprehension. Many times, children with undetected hyperopia are misdiagnosed as having Attention Deficient disorders or learning disabilities.
- Astigmatism: The corneal shape is irregular, more oval shaped (football), resulting in blurry vision at all distances. Astigmatism causes glare, making it very hard to see a smart board or dry erase board in class. Uncorrected astigmatism can reduce reading skills, writing skills, and letter/number identification.
There are many other eye conditions that can manifest during your child’s development that will only be detected on a comprehensive eye exam. However, many times children will have an exam and everything is healthy and 20/20! The goal is to know the risks associated with eye development and have your child under the care of an eye doctor at an early age.
Parents now is the time to take charge of your child’s eye health and vision.
A few quick tips: 1. Know your family history. 2. Feed your child a healthy balanced diet (lots of greens). 3. Keep device time to no more than an hour per day. 4. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam for your child by the age of 3.
Don’t wait until your child complains or begins to fall behind in school. Remember 80% of what your child learns is visual. Learning is 20/20!
Dr. Janelle L. Davison, OD
You Eye Care Expert
Owner/Clinical Director at Brilliant Eyes Vision Center