Although many children receive a vision screening at school or by their pediatricians, those evaluations aren’t enough to identify vision issues and manage overall vision health. Parents who take a proactive role in their child’s vision health can help identify and correct problems before they impact everyday life.
One common issue affecting children is myopia. Better known as nearsightedness, myopia is a condition in which close-up objects appear clear but, at a distance, everything becomes blurry and out of focus. If untreated, over time it can put the eyes at risk for serious vision-threatening conditions including retinal detachment, early cataract development, macular degeneration and glaucoma.
There can be significant short-term impacts, too. Nearly 50 percent of children with myopia experience difficulty in the classroom, and 41 percent of parents with myopic children claim their children struggle with everyday activities, according to a study conducted by MetrixLab on behalf of Essilor of America. However, recognizing those struggles as myopia isn’t always easy. Only 41 percent of parents in the study recognized their children were suffering from myopia.
If your child is suffering from myopia, look for symptoms such as squinting to see distant objects, like the board in the classroom; sitting too close to the TV or holding books and tablets close when reading; and experiencing eyestrain or headaches.
In addition to monitoring symptoms, you can also take proactive steps to protect your child’s vision health with these tips from Dr. Millicent Knight, a mother, optometrist and senior vice president of customer development for Essilor of America.
Schedule a comprehensive eye exam: Regular comprehensive eye exams are particularly important during childhood when eyes are developing rapidly. The American Optometric Association recommends a first eye examination at 6-12 months of age, at least once between ages 3-5 then at least annually between ages 6-18.
Monitor screen time: While technology can be a great tool for learning, all that screen time can lead to digital eyestrain, resulting in tired eyes, headaches, itchy eyes, blurred vision and increased sensitivity to light. To help reduce eyestrain, have children take periodic breaks while using devices and remember to strike a balance between screen time and outdoor time, as studies have shown that kids who play outside may be at a reduced risk of developing vision issues.
Protect eyes from the sun: Parents tend to remember sunscreen when children are outdoors, but they sometimes forget eyes are just as important. Children are at heightened risk for retinal damage when outdoors because their pupils, compared to adults, are larger outdoors and the lens inside the eye is clearer, which enables more harmful blue light from the sun to enter into the eye. Encourage kids to stay inside during the sun’s peak hours, and when they do go outside, have them wear sunglasses with both blue light protection and UV protection that blocks UVA and UVB rays.