As a parent of 2 young boys, I can say with experience it’s really challenging keeping track of everything. Whether it be doctor’s visits, school activities, social engagements. It’s tough. One thing that I think can fall through the cracks is the yearly eye exam for kids. However, as an eye doctor, I cannot stress enough the importance of the yearly eye exam–especially for children. This even true when there are no complaints or notable symptoms.
5 Reasons for a Yearly Eye Exam for Kids
1. Kids often don’t complain when they have blurry vision
While this is especially true of younger kids, even older children may not complain when their vision is blurry. This is because they not have a reference point for what clear vision looks like. If you are a young child and have blurry vision, you may not realize that is abnormal. It’s just the way you’ve always seen things. There isn’t a maturity or experience level there to perceive that is deficient. As adults, we are very self aware. We can’t see street signs or the menu on the t.v., we perceive something’s not right, and we may ask another adult if they can see the object better. Most children are not going to be that self aware to test whether their “normal” way of seeing things is actually normal. In clinical practice, it’s not uncommon for a child to have no complaints, but yet be nearsighted and have 20/50 vision. That child needs glasses and, once she has them, she’s now able to perceive what clear vision should be.
2. Kids can have eye disease
The notion that kids’ eyes are healthy just because they are young is a risky theory. It’s true that eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration are much more common in aging adults. However, kids can have medical conditions of the eye as well. The chances are low, but the stakes are much higher. An undetected eye disease in a child will cause more lifetime impact than a disease diagnosed in a 50 year old.
3. A pediatrician vision screening is NOT a substitute for a yearly eye exam
I love my two kids’ pediatrician. She is very knowledgeable and comprehensive. As a parent and an eye doctor, I appreciate that they are trying to screen for issues by using an eye chart and taking a brief look inside my child’s eyes during their annual well check. But, as an optometrist, I can tell you with absolute certainty that screening is no substitute for a comprehensive, yearly eye exam. A vision chart on the wall is not checking for almost half of potential vision issues that would be checked during an eye exam. Not to mention, many kids can cheat or mislead (or be mislead) with a wall vision chart. And, the quick check inside the eye by the pediatrician is very limited in scope and would miss very significant problems. Passing any vision screening simply does not take the place of a yearly eye exam. I encourage every parent to pair a trip to the pediatrician with a trip to the eye doctor every year.
4. 90% of the sensory information processed by the brain is visual
Given the amount of visual information that is being processed by the brain, it’s vital that the vision be precise and accurate. Even the smallest amount of vision deficiency can have an impact. Small amounts of nearsightedness or farsightedness or astigmatism can cause issues with learning. It can cause delays in processing writing on overheads, slower transitions from near to far visual tasks, slow or inaccurate reading, losing place while reading, double vision, and decreased interest at school or with vision-based learning activities. With so much vision-related learning happening in these formative years, it’s important to make sure a child’s vision is functioning at its best levels. This a main function of the annual eye exam.
5. Smartphones, tablets, and computers have an effect on kids’ eyes
It goes without debate how much of a role these devices are playing in the lives and education of kids these days. Also, it’s not much of a debate to say these devices have an impact on kids’ eyes too. These devices, especially when used for long periods of time, cause strain, visual fatigue, blurry vision, and possibly headaches. Another potential effect of digital devices is ocular dryness. 10 years ago, I almost never diagnosed dry eyes in children. Maybe, it was seen in kids as a side effect of antihistamine allergy medications. But, now I see dry eyes in kids all the time. Very often, I can correlate those clinical findings back to a history of heavy use of tablets, smartphones, or computers. The yearly eye exam is designed to pick up these issues, address them, and limit their impact.
I’d love to hear your feedback and/or questions. Feel free to contact me!