In honor of August’s Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month eye health professionals are encouraging you to make the most of your children’s education and maximize their potential, livelihood and development by including a comprehensive eye exam as part of your child’s back to school checklist.
Though most children have healthy eyes, one in four (25 percent or 12 million) school-aged children either have vision problems or suffer from some degree of visual impairment. What’s more concerning is that 80 percent of preschoolers don’t receive a vision screening.
Often starting at an early age, eye conditions such as amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (cross-eyed) and refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatic), if left undetected and untreated, can damage your child’s vision and negatively impact a child’s learning ability.
Although your child may not demonstrate symptoms, it is possible for your child to have a serious vision problem without being aware of it. Some things to keep an eye on include squinting, sitting too close to the TV, complaining of headaches, poor hand-eye coordination or a lack of concentration when reading that requires the child to either point to words or skip them.
Doctors recommend scheduling a preventive eye exam at the age of six months, three years, before kindergarten and once every two years thereafter, starting at the age of five.
In addition to ensuring proper eyesight, comprehensive eye exams can sometimes lead to the first diagnosis of systemic diseases. As the only organ that allows physicians to directly see blood vessels, eyes are often the first to show predictive signs of diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, immune deficiencies and varying types of cancer. Allowing your eye doctor to detect and treat anomalies at the earliest possible opportunity, comprehensive eye exams, provide an additional mean to stratify risk and help identify people who may benefit from early lifestyle changes and preventive therapies.