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Vision Care for Your Children

Monday, December 30, 2013 @ 03:12 AM
Author: admin

Most of us don’t start to experience problems with our vision until we are older. Therefore, we might not think it necessary to take our children to see an eye doctor until they are also a bit older. However, just like with their physical or mental health, eye health is an important part of overall wellness, and children should have regular screenings to ensure that their eyes are healthy and that there are no signs of visual deficiency or other more serious problems.

Guidelines for Checkups

Good eye health begins as a newborn. In the hospital, your newborn will undergo a series of physical exams and tests to gage his overall state of health and development. A pediatrician will check your baby’s eyes for signs of any problems, such as blockages or fluid retention.

Your baby will then have a series of checkups over the first year of life, starting at every month and then gradually becoming spaced farther apart. At each checkup, your pediatrician will perform a general checkup of physical health, which will include screening for eye health.

It’s not until your child is around 3 years old that he will have his first visit with a pediatric eye doctor. Though this will not be the comprehensive exam that you are used to with your eye doctor, it will include tests of visual acuity, such as asking your child to identify shapes or letters as is age-appropriate.

Your child’s first official eye exam will take place just before he begins school. This comprehensive eye exam will include visual acuity tests and a general health screening. The doctor should also evaluate eye alignment to look for any discrepancies.

If no problems are found with your child’s vision, and he doesn’t require corrective lenses, he will only need to see an eye doctor every two years after that initial exam. However, if any problems are noted or he has to wear glasses or contact lenses, you will need to return to the eye doctor at least once a year for a checkup.

What to Expect

Your child’s first official eye exam will be a bit like the one you are used to getting, but it will vary somewhat.

The exam may start with a general inspection of the eyes. The eye doctor should examine the pupils and the way light is reflected in the eye. He will likely shine a small light into the eye. The doctor will also note the movement of the eyes, including muscle movements, to look for signs of any problems, such as a lazy eye or a twitch.

Your child will be asked to read lines from an eye chart to test for visual acuity, as well. Each eye will be covered to check vision in both, as well as alignment.

Your child’s eyes will not be dilated, nor will he have to endure the pressure test with air being blown into the eye.

Signs to Watch For

You will need to take your child to see an eye doctor if you notice any signs of a potential eye problem. Your child may experience these symptoms at any age, so it is important not to wait until that first official eye exam to have them checked out.

Some symptoms of possible vision or eye problems in children include:
• Eye rubbing
• Sensitivity to light
• Headaches or eye pain
• Blurry vision
• Difficulty tracking objects with the eyes
• Abnormal eye movement
• Redness or tearing
• White pupils
• Squinting

When your child begins school, some symptoms that may indicate eye problems include:
• Difficulty focusing in class
• Trouble reading or writing
• Difficulty seeing the blackboard
• Poor performance in class or on homework
• Resisting going to school
• Taking a long time to complete assignments

Younger children may not be able to tell you if they are experiencing symptoms, such as headaches or blurry vision. However, you may be able to tell there is a problem by watching their behavior. For example, you may notice that your child is very fussy or grabs his head. You may notice that he doesn’t focus on objects or becomes fussy when trying to focus on an object.

Even children who are verbal may not be able to tell you exactly what they are feeling, or they may feel embarrassed to tell you, feeling that it is a personal failing. Pay attention to your child’s attitudes toward school, and talk with his teacher about his behavior in class. Your child may be acting out or seem bored in class because he is feeling frustrated or defeated by his vision problems.

Common Eye Problems in Children

Children can begin to experience eye problems even at a very young age. It is important to pay attention to any changes in your child’s behavior to catch these problems early and get the treatment needed to preserve vision and eye health as much as possible.

Some common eye problems include:
• Nearsightedness. Children may be able to see items close up, such as when reading a book, but they can’t see at a distance, such as the blackboard in class.
• Farsightedness. Children can see items at a distance but not those that are close. Both nearsightedness and farsightedness are commonly treated with corrective lenses.
• Astigmatism. An abnormal curve in the eye can cause vision problems, but it can usually be corrected with glasses.
• Strabismus. Commonly referred to as being “cross-eyed,” strabismus is a misalignment of the eyes. Treatment methods include patching one eye to force the weaker eye to strengthen, surgery and special corrective lenses.
• Amblyopia. Also called a “lazy eye,” amblyopia is poor vision in one eye. Untreated strabismus can lead to amblyopia. Untreated amblyopia can lead to permanent vision loss.

By getting regular checkups, you can help your child to get early treatment for these and other eye problems. Early treatment can help prevent further vision loss or may correct the problem entirely. By seeing an eye doctor regularly, you can discuss the options that are most appropriate for your child.

Proper eye care is essential to overall health and wellness. By ensuring that your child gets good eye care early in life, you are helping to protect his vision for many years to come and to reduce his risks of developing eye disease that could impair his quality of life when he is older.

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