School’s almost out for summer, and it’s a great time to take a look at your child’s vision. If your child is having trouble with vision, summer fun will be harder to come by as everything from sports to video games to reading will be harder to keep in focus- literally! Many times children keep quiet about symptoms they are experiencing or sometimes they don’t realize their vision isn’t up to par.
Although development of the eyes and vision centers of the brain begin before birth, they are not fully developed at birth. Newborns see in shades of grey and red, developing the ability see more colors as they age. Babies are also unable to focus on objects unless they are up close. By the age of six months a baby should be able to see the full color spectrum as well as focus with much greater accuracy.
As babies grow into young children, they develop visual skills such as hand-eye coordination and depth perception that they will use their whole lives. Learning to color, draw, and play sports develops motor skills- and vision is an integral part.
Children’s Vision Problems
The most common causes of childhood vision problems are refractive errors, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness. Myopia, or nearsightedness, makes it difficult to see objects in the distance such as the whiteboard at school or the TV. Nearsightedness is on the rise- in the 1970s only 25% of the population was myopic. By 2004 that number had gone up to 42%. Studies suggest that children who spend time outside are less likely to become nearsighted. Not only that, but children with myopia who play outside experience progression at a slower rate than kids who spend the majority of their time inside.
Farsightedness is also very common in children. Luckily, many of them will outgrow the condition. This disorder makes objects in the distance easy to see, but objects up close difficult to focus on. Farsighted people have difficulty reading and may get headaches working on computers.
Strabismus is a misalignment of the eyes, or eyes looking in different directions. This includes amblyopia, or lazy eye, esotropia, or crosseyed, and exotropia, or walleyed. In some cases, children who are farsighted develop cross eyes from straining to see objects up close. This type of strabismus is called accommodative esotropia. Glasses or contacts will often completely cure this type of strabismus. With all strabismus, the earlier treatment is started the better the outcome will be. Left untreated the child could develop symptoms that could interfere with learning, such as double vision and lazy eye in the misaligned eye.
How do you know if your child might have a vision problem? If they show the symptoms below, they may need an eye exam:
- complaints of headaches
- sitting too close to the TV
- rubbing eyes
- closing one eye to see better
- losing their place while reading or difficulty reading
- trouble with schoolwork or receiving lower grades
Learning and vision go hand in hand, and untreated vision problems can greatly affect a child’s ability to perform in school. This can also affect a child’s self esteem. Sometimes an eye exam and a pair of glasses can make a difference in a child’s grades and confidence.
When Should My Child Have an Exam?
The American Optometric Association recommends that all children should have a comprehensive eye exam no later than six months of age, another exam by the age of three, and one more just before starting school. Once children are school age, they should have exams every two years if they are not experiencing any problems. Children who wear glasses should have exams once a year, as prescriptions tend to change frequently.
Although vision screenings at school with an eye chart are useful, they are not substitutes for comprehensive exams. A child may pass a vision screening and still be experiencing vision trouble or even a medical issue that an optometrist would catch in an eye exam. The doctors at LoBue Laser and Eye Medical Center are happy to see children ages 6 and older, and your pediatrician will be able to recommend a pediatric optometrist for younger children.
Make sure your kids are ready for summer fun and set for the upcoming school year! Call us today at (951) 696-1135 to schedule an appointment. Check our website for upcoming specials!