Protecting Your Children's Eye Health
Good vision is essential for your children's physical, mental, and social development. Eye injuries or vision problems affect a child's ability to learn, play games and excel at sports, and may even affect his or her self-esteem. Children's Eye Health and Safety Month, observed every August, reminds parents and caregivers of the importance of good vision.
How You Can Help Your Child Avoid Eye Injuries
You can reduce your children's risk of eye injuries by:
- Choosing age-appropriate toys that don't contain sharp or protruding parts
- Buying shatter-proof polycarbonate goggles that protect your child's eyes while playing sports
- Keeping kids away from fireworks
- Using child safety locks on cabinets and drawers to prevent injuries from cleaning supplies, knives, sharp utensils, guns, and other eye hazards
- Supervising young children when using scissors, pencils, rubber bands, and other objects that can cause injuries
A Comprehensive Eye Examination Is a Must
Vision problems aren't always obvious in children. They can happen so gradually that kids aren't aware that there's an issue. If your child has had an undetected vision problem since birth, he or she won't realize that other people don't view the world the same way.
Unfortunately, vision issues may mean that your children can lag behind their peers. In addition to detecting refractive errors, like nearsightedness and farsightedness, comprehensive vision exams also evaluate more subtle vision issues, including:
- Strabismus: Strabismus (crossed eyes) occurs when your child's eyes are misaligned, causing the brain to receive slightly different information from each eye. The eyes don't have to be obviously misaligned to cause vision problems. Even slight alignment issues can make reading difficult, affect depth perception, and cause double vision.
- Amblyopia: If strabismus isn't corrected, your child may develop amblyopia, also known as "lazy eye". The condition can also occur due to a cataract, refractive errors, or eye muscle imbalances and affects two or three out of every 100 people, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Due to the conflicting images from the eyes, the brain ignores input from one eye. A child who has amblyopia may have blurred or double vision, headaches, poor hand-eye coordination, and difficulty seeing 3D images.
- Eye Teaming Problems: Both eyes must work as a team to produce one clear image. If eye teaming is a problem, your child may complain about blurry vision or headaches, lose his or her place when reading, or become tired quickly when reading.
- Accommodation Issues: Your eyes constantly make small adjustments to provide clear vision at various distances. If it's difficult for your children to quickly change their focus from a near object to a distant one, they may have trouble viewing the board at school and find reading or writing difficult.
- Saccades: Problems with rapid eye movements called saccades may also affect your child's vision. Movement issues may make it difficult to follow a ball in the sky, copy spelling words, or even make eye contact.
- Convergence Insufficiency: Both eyes must turn inward slightly, or converge, when you focus on a near object. When children have trouble with convergence insufficiency, words appear to move on the page, causing blurry vision, headaches, and difficulty concentrating.
Eyeglasses can improve your children's vision if they are nearsighted or farsighted, but glasses alone may not be enough to correct all vision problems. Vision therapy offers an effective solution if your child has trouble reading, writing, catching balls, or copying math problems correctly.
Therapy is individually tailored to each child's needs and may strengthen weak eye muscles or improve the connection between the eyes and the brain. In fact, many subtle vision problems in children occur due to issues with the way brain processes and stores the information it receives from the eyes.
Vision therapists use a variety of techniques, tools, and devices to improve your child's usable vision. Therapy frequently involves age-appropriate games and activities, balance boards, and special filters, lenses, and prisms that make reading easier.
Has your child had a comprehensive vision examination? An examination offers a simple way to protect your child's vision and eye health. Contact our office to schedule your child's exam.