August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. Considering that back to school is just around the corner, now is a great time to consider scheduling an eye exam for your little one! While doctors can detect vision problems within the first weeks of your baby’s life, the normal recommended age to begin regular eye exams is age 3.
Why Eye Exams Are Important For Children
A regular eye exam is important for your child because vision issues can range from subtle, gradual, over-time changes, to sudden overnight issues. In fact, between the ages of 6-18, your child’s vision can change dramatically. In some instances, eye-sight improves over time, but the majority of children will see some shift in their vision that may affect their day-to-day. Poor vision can influence your child’s performance in school, can cause headaches, affect attention span, and can be a factor when it comes to mood and behavior.
Your child’s eye doctor will be able to monitor your child’s vision over time as well as uncover any issues that could affect their long-term eyesight.
How Early Can Vision Problems Be Detected?
Your pediatrician can help you determine if your child has any vision problems beginning within the first few weeks of life and can recommend optometrists that specialize in young children. Common tests include:
- Response to light - Does your baby blink in response to light stimuli?
- Pupil response - Do your baby’s pupils dilate or constrict when exposed to light?
- Following a moving target - Is your child able to follow a moving target?
- Response testing - This is a special kind of testing that uses brain waves to determine your child’s response to patterns of light that helps a doctor discern any potential issues.
It’s important to note that you should have your pediatrician or your child optometrist perform the above eye exams to ensure the results are recorded correctly and that your baby gets the treatment they need should there be any issues with their vision.
Symptoms of Vision Problems In Children
Vision problems can present in a variety of ways. Every child is different and may not exhibit specific symptoms for any given eyesight-related problem. However, there are some telltale signs that your little one might be struggling with their vision.
Squinting is probably the most common sign that your child may be having trouble with their vision. Believe it or not, squinting actually does help you see a little bit better. It reduces the amount of light that passes through the lens of the eye as well as slightly changes the shape, briefly making an object or text seem a little clearer. We do it as adults, and children do too. If you notice your child squinting while watching TV or reading, it’s probably time to ask your pediatrician for the name of a local optometrist.
Headaches or even eye pain are common symptoms of a vision issue in both children and adults. Squinting and eye strain can easily cause headaches, nausea, and other uncomfortable issues for your little one if they’re struggling to see clearly. Poor eyesight can even cause migraines that last from a few hours to several days. Additionally, headaches may be the result of some underlying issues. It’s best to rule that out by getting a simple eye exam.
If your child is struggling to learn their letters, spell, or read, they may need an eye exam. There are several issues that may contribute to this problem, but an eye exam is a good place to start. If your little one is dealing with a vision problem, letters and words may run together, look the same, or be completely blurry. If your child does need glasses, there’s a good chance that you’ll see an improvement in their reading ability and you may even see a renewed interest in learning.
Rubbing Of The Eyes
If you’re a parent, then you know that kids touch everything with their hands, feet, and mouths. If it can be picked up, squished, or licked, your baby will discover a way to do it. That being said, if you notice your child is excessively rubbing their eyes, there’s a chance they may need to see the doctor. After ruling out any issues like allergic conjunctivitis, your doctor can help you determine whether or not your child is rubbing their eyes due to eye strain and fatigue. Just like adults, children will rub their eyes when they need a break, but too much rubbing may suggest that they’re not seeing clearly.
Sitting Too Close To Media
Kids are funny and do a lot of wacky things. However, if you notice that your child stands particularly close to the TV or holds other screens near their face, there’s a chance they may need to visit the pediatric optometrist. Children are resourceful but sometimes lack the communication skills to tell you whether or not they’re having difficulty with something.
Light tests are often used to diagnose vision problems, but you may notice that your child has an aversion to light. You can get a sense of this if they get fussy or upset in sunlight or even in department store settings where lights are often bright.
Pediatrics East Can Make Things Clearer!
A great way to catch vision problems early is to schedule regular well-child visits. If your pediatrician believes your child needs glasses or some other vision correction, they may send you to see an optical specialist or an ophthalmologist. To get a clearer picture of your child’s vision, schedule an appointment today!
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