Q: “My husband and I both have normal eyesight but we have heard that it is still important to regularly have our child’s vision checked. At what age should we begin vision testing? Are there other eye issues we should be aware of?” – Sandi, Goodyear
A: Just like regular visits to the pediatrician or dentist, eye exams are an important part of a child’s general health maintenance. Parents are encouraged to schedule their child’s first eye exam before the age of 2, and then annually after that. Though it may seem surprising, your son or daughter’s eyesight has the potential to change in just a year, and by scheduling annual appointments with an experienced eye doctor, you’ll be sure to stay on top of any new prescriptions or eye care updates.
A comprehensive eye exam can reveal potential medical conditions before any outward symptoms become noticeable. In some cases, an eye exam can reveal the early on-set of either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. In addition to diabetes, an annual eye exam can reveal other medical conditions. For example, clots in the tiny blood vessels inside of the retina can be a signal risk for strokes, while thickened blood vessel walls along with narrowing of the vessels can be a sign of high blood pressure. Puffy eyes may mean your child has an allergy or may have consumed too much sodium. Yellowing of the eyes may be sign of hepatitis, gallbladder disease or a gall stone block. Our eyes can tell us so much!
Here are some other eye health issues that eye doctors can look for in children:
• Amblyopia (“lazy eyes”)
• Strabismus (crossed or wandering eyes)
• Blurred vision caused by astigmatism nearsightedness and farsightedness
• Eye movement disorders
• Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)
• Hordeolum (Stye)
• Blocked tear ducts in young children
• Eye injuries and infections
• Optic Nerve Hypoplasia
• Ptosis (droopy eyelids)
• Various congenital ocular abnormalities
• Evaluations for learning and reading issues
• Evaluations for eye problems associated with genetic syndromes.
• Eye screening for systemic conditions like juvenile arthritis, diabetes, neurofibromatosis and others
In addition, quality eye doctors can refer you to additional specialists if needed and offer pediatric glasses if a prescription is required.
Since it’s back to school time, many local schools will be performing their own annual school eye exams. But, these should not take the place of regular eye exams for your children. This is because the majority of schools that perform vision tests every year, in actuality, perform only one test: distance vision screening. And while testing distance vision, the vision that allows an individual to see at and beyond 20 feet away (or in other words, the typical distance between your child and the chalkboard), is undeniably important, there’s a whole lot more that goes into a comprehensive, annual eye exam.
With enough to worry about as it is, an annual eye exam will most likely simply put your mind at ease. n
This health information comes from the eye care experts at Nationwide Vision. For more than 29 years, Nationwide Vision has been transforming eye care in Arizona. They have more than 64 centers throughout Arizona. Visit www.nationwidevision.com for more info.