September is quickly approaching and it is soon time to send our children back to school. Without good vision, a child’s ability to learn about the world becomes increasingly more difficult. According to a recent study, vision problems affect one in 20 preschoolers and one in four school-age children. Since many vision problems begin at an early age, it is very important that parents make sure their children receive proper eye care. Untreated eye problems can worsen and lead to other serious problems as well as affect learning ability, personality and adjustment in school.
Good vision is essential for children as they develop physically and move though the process of education. Parents should be prepared by making sure their children receive timely vision and eye health screenings for the detection and early treatment of eye problems.
You can’t assume your child has 20/20 vision just because he/she never complains about not being able to see; children with vision problems may not realize the world isn’t blurry to everybody else. If your child often has headaches, tearing, tilts his head to one side to read schoolwork, or holds objects unusually close or far away to view them, it could be a sign he/she has a vision problem and should be checked out immediately.
Among the conditions which can be detected in children by vision screenings beginning in the preschool years are: reduced vision in one or both eyes from amblyopia, misalignment of the eyes (called strabismus), and uncorrected refractive errors or other eye defects, the most common form, nearsightedness (poor distance vision), is usually seen in school-age children and is treated effectively, in most cases, with glasses.
Amblyopia is poor vision in an otherwise normal appearing eye. Two common causes are crossed eyes and a difference in the refractive error between the two eyes. If untreated, amblyopia can cause irreversible visual loss. The best time for treatment is in the preschool years. Effective treatment after the child is 8 or 9 years of age is rarely achieved.
Strabismus is misalignment of the eyes whether the eye turns in, out up or down. If the same eye is habitually misaligned, amblyopia may develop in that eye. Early detection of amblyopia resulting in strabismus, followed up by treatment with patching and any necessary glasses, can be effective in restoring vision. The eyes can be aligned in some cases with glasses and in others with surgery, but neither of these treatment techniques replaces the need for patching when it is indicated.
Refractive errors cause decreased vision visual discomfort (“eye strain”), and/or amblyopia. The most common form, nearsightedness (poor distance vision), is usually seen in school-age children and is treated effectively, in most cases, with glasses. Farsightedness (poor near vision) can cause problems in seeing close work and is also treated with glasses. Astigmatism (imperfect curvature of the front surfaces of the eye) also requires corrective eye glasses if it produces blurred vision or discomfort. Uncorrected refractive errors can cause amblyopia in some cases.
In conclusion, an ophthalmologic examination should be performed whenever questions arise about the eye health of a child at any age. Early detection of defective vision provides the best opportunity for effective, inexpensive treatment and will work to cease any vision-related learning problems in school.