Healthy vision is so important because it has a direct impact on a child’s ability to learn, read, and develop in a healthy manner.
Dr. Allison Babiuch, pediatric ophthalmologist at the Cleveland Clinic, says uncorrected vision problems “can impact a child’s balance, coordination, ability to play sports, walking on schedule, and healthy brain development.”
In Ohio, pediatricians conduct vision screens every year. Also, starting in preschool, schools screen for vision as well. If there is a problem or concern, the child is referred to a pediatric ophthalmologist where they will do a full examination.
“Dilation is necessary to check for visual acuity, eye structure and health, and to get an accurate prescription for glasses,” Babiuch explains.
If your child needs glasses, Babiuch says parents can be supportive with a positive attitude.
“If everyone has a positive attitude then the child will tend to be encouraged to wear glasses,” she says.
Although Babiuch doesn’t recommend annual exams, because pediatric ophthalmologists rely on the vision screens, she says that if “the parents or caretakers notice anything concerning their child’s eyes or if there is a family history that could affect the child’s eyes, then those children should come in for a formal eye exam.” Comprehensive eye exams can even be conducted if the child is non-verbal or pre-verbal.
Prevention and early detection of any eye problems are essential. Parents can support their child’s eye health by:
Knowing the signs. Your child may need glasses if he/she is squinting or tilting their head to look at things. “Holding items close isn’t necessarily an indication that a child needs glasses because children tend to hold items close,” Babiuch says.
Periodically check your child’s vision. Ask your child, “What do you see? What does the sign say? Or, ask other questions to ensure that the child can see what the parents can see.
Limiting screen time. “The trend is more towards near-sightedness (myopia) and genetics can’t explain it all so researchers believe that there are environmental lifestyle factors that are playing into the rates of nearsightedness,” Babiuch says. “We can’t say for certain if tablets and computers and screens are contributing to nearsightedness, but it isn’t helping.”
Also, take screen time breaks. Babiuch recommends, “every 20 minutes take a 20 second break and look 20 ft away (20-20-20 rule) to give your eyes a break.”
Encouraging children to play outside. Studies have shown that kids who play outside more in the sunlight have less problems with nearsightedness.