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Through a Child's Eyes

How Should We Safeguard Our Child's Eyesight

Most of us would agree that our eyesight is our most precious sense, yet we often think our children's vision is fine because they are not complaining, they seem to act like they see well or "they passed their school eye exam".

Eighty percent of what students learn is through vision, yet 86 percent of all children have not had a complete eye examination - ever.  Here we will discuss why and how to safeguard our child's vision. We will discuss why routine eye exams are important, why early detection is important, what are the essentials of an eye exam and when should children have their first eye exam.

My Child Sees Fine - Why Does She Need an Eye Exam

As parents we often think that our son or daughter has good vision and therefore does not need an eye exam.  Common misperceptions of why eye exams in children are not important include, my son doesn't complain of blurry vision, my child's grades are good, or the parents have good vision therefore the kids probably do too.

School screening don't qualify as an eye exam.  While an essential part of protecting the visual and physical health of our children, school screenings were never intended to replace a professional eye exam.  School screenings prevent children from "falling between the cracks" and are best used to supplement regular eye care.

Because we have two eyes, it is not uncommon for children, and adults alike, to function normally even though the vision is poor in one eye, and yet perfectly normal in the other.  In essence one eye is carrying the burden for both.  If left uncorrected this problem leads to amblyopia, an often permanent but preventable condition, where even with glasses or contact lenses the vision can not be improved to that of the "good" eye.

Early Detection is Key

It is often said that it is easier to prevent something than to fix it once it has occurred.  This is especially true in eye care.

Amblyopia is the best example of prevention.  Amblyopia is where the correctable vision in one eye is less than that of the fellow eye.  Amblyopia is preventable with early detection.  Successful treatment of amblyopia is more difficult to fix the older we get.  Amblyopia is caused by a big difference in prescription between the eyes, by an eye that turns in our out, or by something blocking the vision, such as a cataract.

Early detection is also important in fixing problems directly related to the health of the eyes such as retinal holes or tears.  Children are active and trauma to the eye can cause retinal problems.  A dilated eye exam or an optomap® Retinal Exam are very helpful in detecting these problems.

The Essentials of a Good Eye Exam

How do you know your child or family is receiving the eye care they deserve?  With the advanced technology available to eye doctors today we are able to diagnose and treat many conditions before they are problematic.  Below are the essential components of a complete eye exam.

The chief complaint - A proper eye exam starts with what we call a chief complaint or what brings you in today?  Sometimes patients are having a specific problem, such as blurriness at the computer, at other times patients present to their eye doctor for preventative eye care.

The medical history - you may wonder why the eye doctor needs to know about the medications you are  taking or why is it important for the eye doctor to know your daughter's grandmother had diabetes.  Many systemic diseases are first detected with an eye exam.

We have found that it is easier to accurately remember your health history while filling out the forms in the convenience of your own home rather than trying to hurry and fill out one more form right before your eye exam.  Therefore, for your convenience we make the medical history form and the patient information form available online and you can bring them with you to your appointment.

 Visual acuities - your eye doctor needs to know how well your current mode of correction, whether it is contact lenses, glasses or nothing at all, is working for you.  It is important to bring your glasses or contacts with you to the exam.

Pretesting - here a technician will collect data for the doctor.  Among the tests conducted are lensometry (determines the prescription of your old glasses), Autorefraction (gives the doctor a starting point in determining the glasses prescription), tonometry (measures the pressure in the eye, helpful in diagnosing glaucoma), visual fields (used to help diagnose tumors and glaucoma), retinal pictures (the optomap® Retinal Exam gives a panoramic view of the back of the eye to aid in the diagnosis of diabetes, glaucoma, macular degeneration, retinal tumors, holes, tears and detachments).

Refraction - Here the doctor determines your refractive error, the prescription that makes you see clearly. In calculating your child's prescription we will determine if they have astigmatism, nearsightedness or farsightedness.

Eye health evaluation - Potentially the most important part of an eye exam is evaluating the health of the eye.  Here we can observe and detect conditions before they become problems.  The optomap® Retinal Exam technology available at Total Eye Care is especially helpful here.  In a mere 1/4th of a second, up to 81% of your child's eye is photographed with a panoramic camera.  We all know how hard it is for us to hold our own eyes still with someone shining a bright light in our eye, it is even more difficult for most children.  The optomap® makes this much easier to thoroughly evaluate the health of your child's eyes.

Consulting with the doctor - the doctor should then bring all of the information together and consult with you on all of the findings, thoroughly answering all of your questions.  Some of the treatment options available to us are of course glasses, however another option to consider is how contact lenses can improve our child's self image.  Certain contact lenses have also been shown to prevent the progression of nearsightedness.

How Old Should a Child be for Their First Eye Exam

Children should have their eyes examined at any age if a problem is suspected. Until recently eye exams were recommended for all children before they entered kindergarten. However, numerous national organizations such as the American Optometric Association, American Academy of Ophthalmology and Prevent Blindness America have begun to recommend that your child receive their first eye exam at 6 months of age and then again at 3 years of age. Many forms of blindness or amblyopia that occur in children can be prevented if caught early. Before you take your child to your eye doctor ask them if they are set up to evaluate children that are your child’s age. Not all eye doctors see young children.