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Why kids need back to school eye exams

Research says that children's eye health is key to learning.

Going back-to-school means new clothes, a new backpack, and a new teacher. Research says it should also mean an eye exam. 

Students spend time sitting in classrooms, completing homework, and researching on the computer. Most demands in school and the classroom are visual.   

Research says that good and comfortable vision and overall eye health are an important part of learning that leads to social, academic and athletic success. 

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, one in five preschoolers in the United States have vision problems. By the time they enter school, one in four will need or wear corrective lenses.

Studies show if poor vision is left untreated during this period of development when children are most susceptible to vision changes, it may affect a child’s learning ability, personality, stress and adjustment in school. It can also make school a frustrating place for children. Vision demands increase with every grade level, from computer usage to reliance on reading skills. 

Failure to address significant eye conditions as kids grow may also have long-term consequences, not only school, but also on professional opportunities and quality of life.

Here are tips recommended by Pediatric Ophthalmologists to make sure kid's eyes and vision make grades this school year.

Know and share your family eye health history.

Everyone should find out whether eye conditions or diseases run in their family and share that information with the person performing the screening. If some eye conditions are not treated in childhood, they can cause permanent vision loss later in life.

Get regular screenings.

Children’s eyes change rapidly, making regular vision screenings an important step in detecting and correcting eye problems early. In addition to screenings for newborns and infants, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends further vision screening for children throughout their early years.  

Children who need eyeglasses or contact lenses should be examined annually or as recommended by your eye doctor.

If a child should pass a vision screening, they should still receive a comprehensive eye exam if they show any signs or symptoms of a vision problem.

Parents may wonder if looking at screens can seriously damage your eyes.
 

According to pediatric ophthalmologist’s, screen time at school and home can add up and lead to several visual challenges beyond eye health, some of which children may not necessarily even realize.

The first problem is that screen time keeps children indoors. Studies have found that children who spend more time indoors are more likely to develop nearsightedness (myopia).

The exact cause isn't yet known, but researchers believe that UV light (providing the eyes are protected from intense sunlight) plays an important role in healthy eye development.

Eye fatigue, dry and irritated eyes, loss of focus and the ability to adjust to distance are some more obvious symptoms.

Help your child practice good eye habits by setting limits on daily screen time at home and stick to it.  Encourage your child to spend some of that screen-free time outdoors while it is still light.  Teach their children the 20-20-20 rule when using a computer or other screen device.  Every 20 minutes look away from the screen for 20 seconds and focus on something at least 20 feet away.

The rate of nearsightedness in children has nearly doubled over the last 45 years. Scientists cannot agree on why this is the case , but a  recent study the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, offers further evidence that at least part of the worldwide increase in nearsightedness has to do with near work activities; not just screens but also traditional books.

Make regular eye exams a part of your child's healthcare schedule. A physical at school is helpful to tell if your child's eyes are tired or irritated, but it's harder to tell if they are developing a vision problem.
Only a comprehensive eye exam, by an eye doctor who specializes in children (a pediatric ophthalmologist or optometrist), can reliably diagnose a vision problem.

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