Kids are heading back to school and eye sight can mean the difference between success and failure in the classroom. You may have noticed some of the obvious signs this summer; squinting, sitting too close to the television, rubbing their eyes. But sometimes there are no signs that your child isn’t seeing well. Here’s how to be
proactive about your child’s vision at every stage of their childhood.
Birth to Age 3
It’s important to have your child’s eyes checked at an early age. The AOA recommends that all children have an eye exam by the age of one to detect any early visual problems. We are participants of the AOA’s InfantSEE program, in which we’ll do an infant exam before the age of 1 for no charge!
Other vision problems tend to emerge after 18 months, so it is recommended that every child have their eyes re-evaluated by age 3-4. Of course, if your child is having problems such as pink eye, light sensitivity, redness, puss, tearing, swelling or droopy eyelids, don’t hesitate to bring them in sooner.
The visual pathways are still developing until age 7. Even kids who are healthy and show no signs of blurry vision may have underlying problems. The two silent vision issues for children are:
Crossed or wandering eye (strabismus) – an eye that drifts or appears crossed in respect to the other eye. This conditions is usually picked up by the child’s parents, but it can be subtle, making it easy to overlook.
Uneven focus (anisometropia) – One eye has a much stronger prescription than the other. This problem is the hardest to detect, because young children don’t know their vision is compromised. The child may have difficulty reading and seeing detail up close, which can cause headaches. However, he or she may have no symptoms at all and see 20/20 with both eyes open.
Both of these conditions can cause lazy eye (amblyopia) which is treatable until age 7. If ignored, the damage can be permanent. The most common treatments include glasses plus patching. Depending on the severity, the patch may only need to be worn for a couple hours a day. Other treatments include eye drops, vision therapy and/or surgery.
This is a common time for refractive errors to start showing up. This includes near-sightedness, far-sightedness and astigmatism. These conditions can affect school performance and even social interaction. Kids think what they have is normal because they don’t know any better. Once detected, it’s incredible to see the look on a child’s face when they put on their first pair of glasses and can finally see clearly.
Sometimes there can be resistance to wearing glasses if the child sees a schoolmate being picked on. But, parents shouldn’t assume glasses are always going to be an issue. Role models and celebrities like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook sit in press conferences with huge black frames and that can be inspiring for a young child. Sometimes kids will be more responsive to glasses than you think.
Kids are getting into contacts lenses at earlier ages, especially with sports, athletics and active lifestyles. We’ll usually put kids in contact lenses around age 10 or 11 depending on maturity. Annual exams are recommended for all children in this age range, regardless of eye sight.
To schedule an eye exam for your child, please call our office at 405-341-9480 or request an appointment online.