For kids, one of the most important tools in learning is their eyes! Did you know that the American Optometric Association recommends an eye exam as early as six months! It would be humorous to do our usual routine of “which is better – one or two” with them and see if we get any goos or gaas. Instead we look at pupil responses, how well they can follow an object, and can use special tools to look for any uncorrected visual problems.
An eye exam is then recommended at age 3, 5, and every year thereafter for those who wear corrective lenses.
What is the difference between a vision screening and comprehensive eye exam?
A vision screening will usually check only how well a person can see at distance and near. It is a quick assessment that may miss crucial undetected eye problems. A comprehensive exam will assess various things like visual alignment, color vision, accommodation, and visual perception. These tests allow us to make sure the eyes and the brain are communicating with each other as they should. Screenings miss about one third of kids who should be sent for a comprehensive check-up.
Amblyopia – 2-4% of children have this condition
This is also known as “lazy eye”. When both eyes are not used together, a lack of development of vision, usually in one eye, causes the brain to “ignore” the images seen by that weak eye. The longer this situation remains, the weaker the amblyopic eye becomes. When this happens at such an early age, the brain continues to use only the strong eye and the vision in the lazy eye becomes permanently decreased. Sometimes even with glasses the lazy cannot be made to see better and remains blurry into adulthood. Early treatment is key to strengthen the eyes and is why a comprehensive exam is so important for kids. As smart as our kids are, it is a difficult condition to detect just on their own.
Signs of possible vision problems:
An eye that turns in, out, up or down frequently
Frequent eye rubbing
Bumping into things
Red eyes or eye lids
Turning or tilting their head
Frequent eye styes
They avoid near activities like coloring, puzzles, toys
Poor eye-hand-body coordination
Avoiding close work especially homework and reading
Holding reading material closer than normal
Making frequent reversals when reading or writing
Using a finger to maintain place when reading
Omitting or confusing small words when reading
Consistently performing below potential
We hope everyone has a safe school year!