August 17, 2015
See School Eye Exams in a New Light
You get a lot of mail, but there’s one letter you should watch out for: your child’s school eye exam results. If you’re notified that your child didn’t pass his or her eye exam, there may be a problem with his or her vision. It’s important to make an appointment with an eye doctor right away.
“What we see in the office is heartbreaking,” says Wendy Spirek, chief strategy officer at Children’s Eye Physicians. “Parents walk in with young kids who’ve failed two or three vision screenings. That means we lost two or three years to correct a potential vision development problem.”
Catch Eye Problems Early
Why is that time is so important? Children’s vision develops up until age 8 or 9. “After that point, there are fewer options and a narrower margin to change the course of a child’s vision development,” Spirek says. Eye exams are often one of the only ways to know whether there’s an issue with your child’s sight.
“Kids may be unaware that a blurry chalkboard isn’t OK,” Spirek says. “And even if they can sense that something is wrong, they may not be able to communicate what the issue is.”
Focus on Eye Health
According to a report by the National Commission on Vision & Health, 40 percent of U.S. children who fail an initial vision screening do not receive the appropriate follow-up care. But the sooner your children get the specialty care they need, the better.
One of the most common vision problems in young kids is a condition called amblyopia. It occurs when the eyes and the brain don’t work together properly. This can affect the eyes’ ability to focus. When caught early, the solution can be simple. “We can patch the stronger eye so that the weaker one has to work harder and becomes stronger over time,” Spirek says. Other issues due to amblyopia may be more severe and require surgery to align the muscles that control eye movement.
Failed eye exams could also be a result of less common issues in children such as cataracts, glaucoma, or even a tumor in the eye or brain. If left untreated, these issues could lead to vision loss and more serious problems.
Keep an Eye on Your Child’s Sight
Besides a failed school eye exam, your child might be experiencing vision problems if you notice signs such as:
- Eye rubbing or blinking
- Frequent headaches
- Holding reading or other objects close to the face
- Frequently losing his or her place while reading
- Difficulty remembering what he or she just read
- Complaints of seeing double
If your child fails a school eye exam or has any of the symptoms above, make an appointment with an eye doctor who has additional training in pediatrics. “They’ll have the equipment and experience necessary for evaluating your child’s vision,” Spirek says.
When children get the vision correction they need, not only are they able to see better, but they also experience improvements in reading, learning, self-esteem, sports and much more.