Since January is Eye Care month, this is a great time to think about your family’s eye health.
Because eye health and vision issues can lead to problems such as difficulty in school and vision loss, make sure that you are taking care of both your children’s eyes and your own eyes.
“Experts say 5 – 10 percent of preschoolers and 25 percent of school-aged children have vision problems,” says Dr. Dawn Gammon, Optometrist and CEO of The Eyewear Gallery. “Early identification of a child’s vision problem is crucial because, if left untreated, some childhood vision problems can cause permanent vision loss.”
Symptoms of Vision Problems
When Pam Vetter’s son Ian was in fifth grade, he started having difficulty seeing the chalkboard in school. She took him to an optometrist for a complete eye exam, and the doctor determined that he needed glasses. One of the first signs of vision problems that parents notice is difficulty in school, especially in reading and handwriting. Other signs of vision issues can include headaches, double vision and blurred vision.
Importance of Regular Eye Screenings
The American Optometric Association recommends that you take your baby for their first eye exam with an optometrist by six months of age to rule out eye health issues. You should also take your child for an eye exam when he is 3 years of age and before kindergarten. School-aged children should have a comprehensive exam every two years or whenever symptoms of eye or vision problems arise.
While your child’s pediatrician or school probably does a vision screening each year, it is important to also take your child for a complete eye exam.
“Vision screenings are designed to detect gross vision problems,” says Gammon. “But kids can pass a screening at school and still have vision problems that can affect their learning and school performance.” Gammon also reminds parents that school vision screenings does not evaluate the health of your child’s eyes for issues such as amblyopia (lazy eye), convergence insufficiency, focusing problems and eye teaming problems.
Corrective Lens for Kids and Adults
If your child needs to wear corrective lens, be positive about the glasses to your child and let them be involved in the process of picking out the frames. When Sophia Chiang’s daughter was diagnosed with far-sightedness in kindergarten, she took her to a children’s eyewear boutique and let her pick out a pair of rainbow-colored hand-painted glasses.
“We felt that if she liked her glasses, it would be less traumatic and she would wear the glasses all the time,” says Chiang.
Gammon recommends polycarbonate or trivex lens for kids because of durability. “If a child plays a rough sport like baseball, basketball, or hockey, goggles such as “Rec-Specs” are wonderful eye safety devices,” says Gammon.
When you feel your child is responsible enough to handle contacts, talk to their eye doctor about contact lenses. When Ian Vetter entered the sixth grade, he switched to contacts. His optometrist went over how to put them in, keep them clean and change the solution.
“I take good care of my contacts because they’re expensive, and the doctor showed me how to take care of them. I change the saline solution every day so I don’t get eye infections,” explains Ian.
Adult Eye Care
In addition to taking care of your children’s eyes, be sure have your own eyes examined at least every two years. Gammon says that adults can help keep their eyes healthy by exercising regularly, not smoking, wear UV eyewear with UV protection and eat a diet rich in antioxidants, such as fruits and dark green vegetables.
Gammon also reminds parents to be screened regularly for diabetes and high blood pressure.
“If left untreated, these diseases can cause eye problems. In particular, diabetes and high blood pressure can lead to diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, glaucoma and ocular hypertension,” says Gammon.
By making eye health a priority in your family, you will be helping to keep your children’s eyes healthy and correct any vision issues early. In addition, you will be teaching them the importance of taking care of their own eyes and developing a life-long habit of eye care.
Jennifer Gregory is a freelance writer and mother of two. Her family finds it amusing that if she loses her glasses that they have to help her find them because she cannot see well enough to find her own glasses.