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Glasses Can Help Even Young Children
When should a child get his or her first pair of glasses?
When he or she needs them--and that may be as young as a few months of age.
Doctors who specialize in children's eye care say kids usually become near- or farsighted between ages 6 and 12. But even infants can wear glasses if they need help to see well. Experts agree that all children should have an eye screening before they enter school.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommend that all infants and children be screened for vision problems. Any child who doesn't pass one of the screening tests below should be examined by an ophthalmologist or optometrist.
The AAO and AOA recommend these screenings:
A pediatrician or health care provider should examine a newborn's eyes to make sure they are healthy. (An ophthalmologist or optometrist should look at all newborns at risk for developing serious vision problems in childhood, as well as those with developmental delays.) Not all visual problems are a result of abnormal focus. Infants may be born with cataracts, cloudy corneas, or other problems that impact vision.
A health care provider should examine the eyes of youngsters between 6 months and 1 year of age.
A health care provider should do vision screening between ages 3 and 3 1/2 years. The focus should be on checking visual acuity. A formal test of visual acuity should be done by age 5.
Doctors can prescribe glasses--even bifocals--and contact lenses for premature infants and other children.
With strabismus, or crossed eyes, the eyes fail to focus on the same object or to converge in unison. Experts can spot this problem in children as young as 2 or 3 months.
Strabismus may cause reduced vision in the weaker eye because the brain recognizes the image of the better-seeing eye and ignores the image of the weaker eye. Doctors treat the condition by putting a patch on the "good" eye to strengthen and improve vision in the weaker eye. If the condition is diagnosed when a child is young, treatment is usually successful. Surgery may also be used to make the eyes focus simultaneously on the same point. This is generally done if patching isn’t successful.
Signs of eye problems:
Infants older than 3 months who do not make eye contact or have eyes that look different ways should be evaluated by a pediatrician. This may also be a sign of blindness, intellectual disability, neurological problems, or autism, as well as eye problems.
Infants who don't watch a favorite thing (such as a pacifier) if you move it to the side.
Children who tilt their heads to see things.
Children, including older children, who squint. A school-age child who squints to see the blackboard may be nearsighted.
More than one in fifty children have Amblyopia, and one in twenty preschool children have an eye problem that could lead to amblyopia (Prevent Blindness America 2005).
The good news is that amblyopia detected within the first six years of life is treatable.
The Eye See Kids Vision Screening Program seeks to eliminate amblyopia and provides free vision screenings to children by the time they start kindergarten.
Have your child's eyes checked
Every child should have a good vision screening prior to starting kindergarten. This screening can be performed by a pediatrician, trained volunteer, or an eye care professional (ophthalmologist or optometrist). Only an eye care professional can provide a complete eye exam, which is more complete and detailed compared to a vision screening. As part of our program, we offer free vision screenings by one of our network eye care professionals.
What is Amblyopia?
Commonly known as Lazy Eye, Amblyopia is the number one cause of blindness in children age 0-5 years. Amblyopia results as a misalignment of a child's eyes; as one eye becomes stronger, it will take over, and the weaker eye will often lose function. Amblyopia may be present in straight eyes as well and only a vision test will detect the problem. With early diagnosis and treatment, the weaker eye can regain its full function (Prevent Blindness America 2005).
Parents are often unfamiliar with or unaware of the warning signs of amblyopia, allowing the problem to go undiagnosed, resulting in blindness. As the child continues to age, the vision impairment becomes permanent and untreatable.
What are the signs of lazy eye?
Some children with eye problems may show no signs of eye trouble!
Many different problems can cause lazy eye. Here are some signs of eye trouble that could be related to lazy eye or other eye problems:
- Favoring one eye
- Tilting the head
- An eye drifts or wanders when the child is tired, sick or in bright light
- Your child tends to close one eye, especially in sunlight
- Rubbing the eyes
- Your child seems to blink too much
- Your child holds things close to his or her eyes
If you notice these or other signs of eye trouble, take your child to an eye doctor right away.
Vision impairments involve more than just eyesight
Vision impairments also hinder a child's ability to learn. Many times children are misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder when, in reality, they have poor visual processing.
According to Margaret Livingstone from the Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School and the Dyslexia Research Laboratory, poor visual processing plays a significant role in a large majority of children who struggle to read. Children who cannot see well due to a need for vision correction fail to pay attention and perform poorly in school (Children's Visual Information Network 2007). Without being able to see the board or read papers in front of them their ability to learn is hindered. Diagnosing visual impairments or processing problems early can help a child to be able to reach their full potential, rather than being misdiagnosed and treated for the wrong disability.
Bruce A. Miller, M.D.
Program Coordinator/Medical Director, Pediatric Ophthalmology Chris Evert Children's Hospital
220 SW 84 Avenue
Building 220, Suite 204
Plantation, FL 33324
For a list of local "Eye See Kids" vision screeners, click here!
Prevent Blindness Florida
Broward College Vision Care
Florida's Vision Quest