High quality eye care can help enable your children to reach their highest potential. Children who receive attentive and skilled attention from an eye specialist can avoid many barriers in life and are in better position to excel socially, academically and athletically.
Vision doesn’t just happen. A child’s brain learns how to use eyes to see, just like it learns how to use legs to walk or a mouth to form words. The longer a vision problem goes undiagnosed and untreated, the more a child’s brain learns to accommodate the vision problem.
That’s why a comprehensive eye examination is so important for children. Early detection and treatment provide the very best opportunity to correct vision problems so your child can learn to see clearly.
Eighty percent of all learning is performed through vision. Make sure your child has the best possible tools to learn successfully.
Your baby has a whole lifetime to see and learn. But did you know your baby also has to learn to see? As a parent, there are many things that you can do to help your baby’s vision develop. First, proper prenatal care and nutrition can help your baby’s eyes develop even before birth. At birth, your baby’s eyes should be examined for signs of congenital eye problems. These are rare, but early diagnosis and treatment are important to your child’s development. Babies have poor vision at birth but can see faces at close range, even in the newborn nursery. At about six weeks, a baby’s eyes should follow objects and by four months should work together. Over the first year or two, vision develops rapidly. A two-year-old usually sees around 20/30, nearly the same as an adult.
Parents should be aware of signals of poor vision. If one eye turns or crosses, that eye may not see as well as the other eye. If the child is uninterested in faces or age-appropriate toys, or if the eyes rove around or jiggle, poor vision should be suspected. Other signs to watch for are tilting the head and squinting. Babies and toddlers compensate for poor vision rather than complain about it.
When Should my Child have his First Eye Exam?
By age 3, your child should have a thorough optometric eye examination to make sure your preschooler’s vision is developing properly and there is no evidence of eye disease. If needed, your doctor can prescribe treatment including glasses and/or vision therapy to correct a vision development problem.
Children with close relatives (parents, siblings, cousins) who have amblyopia (poor vision in one eye) or strabismus (eyes which are not straight) or ‘lazy eye’ should be examined by an optometrist by 1 year of age or sooner if a problem is suspected by the parents or the children’s pediatrician.
Does My Child Need Glasses?
Glasses are prescribed to correct for significant changes in vision such as myopia (nearsightedness or trouble seeing far objects); hyperopia (farsightedness or trouble seeing near objects occasionally resulting in crossing of the eyes in young children); astigmatism (irregularly shaped eyes resulting in blurred vision); and anisometropia (unequal focus between the two eyes which may result in amblyopia or one eye becoming weaker than the other).
Children particularly at risk for requiring glasses are those who were premature, have family members who wear glasses (particularly siblings), have strabismus (crossing of the eyes), or show behavior consistent with poor vision such as squinting.
Children and Vision
People are often confused about the importance of glasses for children. Some believe that if children wear glasses when they are young, they won’t need them later. Others think wearing glasses as a child makes one dependent on them later. Neither is true. Children need glasses because they are genetically nearsighted, farsighted, or astigmatic. These conditions do not go away nor do they get worse because they are not corrected. Glasses or contact lenses are necessary throughout life for good vision.
Nearsightedness (distant objects appear blurry) typically begins between the ages of eight and fifteen, but can start earlier. Farsightedness is actually normal in young children and not a problem as long as it is mild. If a child is too farsighted, vision is blurry or the eyes cross when looking closely at things. This is usually apparent around the age of two. Almost everyone has some amount of astigmatism (oval instead of round cornea). Glasses are required only if the astigmatism is strong.
Unlike adults, children who need glasses may develop a second problem, called amblyopia or lazy eye. Amblyopia means even with the right prescription, one eye (or sometimes both eyes) does not see normally. Amblyopia is more likely to occur if the prescription needed to correct one eye is stronger than the other. Wearing glasses can prevent amblyopia from developing in the more out-of-focus eye.
Children (and adults) who do not see well with one eye because of amblyopia, or because of any other medical problems that cannot be corrected, should wear safety glasses to protect the normal eye.
Strabismus refers to misaligned eyes. The eyes turn inward (crossed), turn outward, or one eye can be higher than the other. Strabismus can be subtle or obvious, intermittent (occurring occasionally), or constant. It can affect one eye only or shift between the eyes.
Strabismus usually begins in infancy or childhood. Some toddlers’ eyes cross because they need glasses for farsightedness. But most cases of strabismus do not have a well-understood cause. It seems to develop because the eye muscles are uncoordinated and do not move the eyes together.
When young children develop strabismus, they typically have mild symptoms. They may hold their heads to one side if they can use their eyes together in that position. Or, they may close or cover one eye when it deviates, especially at first. Adults, on the other hand, have more symptoms when they develop strabismus. They have double vision (see a second image) and may lose depth perception. At all ages, strabismus is disturbing. Studies show school children with significant strabismus have self-image problems.
Amblyopia, or lazy eye, is closely related to strabismus. Children learn to suppress double vision so effectively that the deviating eye gradually loses vision. It may be necessary to patch the good eye and wear glasses before treating the strabismus. Amblyopia does not occur when alternate eyes deviate, and adults do not develop amblyopia.
Strabismus is often treated by surgically adjusting the tension on the eye muscles. The goal of surgery is to get the eyes close enough to perfectly straight that it is hard to see any residual deviation. Surgery usually improves the conditions though the results are rarely perfect. Results are usually better in young children.
Impact of Computer Use on Children’s Vision
When first introduced, computers were almost exclusively used by adults. Today, children increasingly use these devices both for education and recreation. Millions of children use computers on a daily basis at school and at home.
Children can experience many of the same symptoms related to computer use as adults. Extensive viewing of the computer screen can lead to eye discomfort, fatigue, blurred vision and headaches. However, some unique aspects of how children use computers may make them more susceptible than adults to the development of these problems.
Here are some things to consider for children using a computer:
Have the child’s vision checked. This will make sure that the child can see clearly and comfortably and can detect any hidden conditions that may contribute to eye strain. When necessary, glasses, contact lenses or vision therapy can provide clear, comfortable vision, not just for using the computer, but for all other aspects of daily activities.
Strictly enforce the amount of time that a child can continuously use the computer. A ten-minute break every hour will minimize the development of eye focusing problems and eye irritation caused by improper blinking.
Carefully check the height and arrangement of the computer. The child’s size should determine how the monitor and keyboard are positioned. In many situations, the computer monitor will be too high in the child’s field of view, the chair too low and the desk too high. A good solution to many of these problems is an adjustable chair that can be raised for the child’s comfort, since it is usually difficult to lower the computer monitor. A foot stool may be necessary to support the child’s feet.
Carefully check the lighting for glare on the computer screen. Windows or other light sources should not be directly visible when sitting in front of the monitor. When this occurs, the desk or computer may be turned to prevent glare on the screen. Sometimes glare is less obvious. In this case, holding a small mirror flat against the screen can be a useful way to look for light sources that are reflecting off of the screen from above or behind. If a light source can be seen in the mirror, the offending light should be moved or blocked from hitting the screen with a cardboard hood (a baffle) attached to the top of the monitor. In addition, the American Optometric Association has evaluated and accepted a number of glare screens that can be added to a computer to reduce glare. Look for the AOA Seal of Acceptance when purchasing a glare reduction filter.
Reduce the amount of lighting in the room to match the computer screen. Often this is very simple in the home. In some cases, a smaller light can be substituted for the bright overhead light or a dimmer switch can be installed to give flexible control of room lighting. In other cases, a three-way bulb can be turned onto its lowest setting.
Children have different needs to comfortably use a computer. A small amount of effort can help reinforce appropriate viewing habits and assure comfortable and enjoyable computer use.
Please contact Eye Care Specialists today to schedule your child’s eye examination. We serve patients in Scranton, Wilkes Barre, Kingston, and throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania.