If you haven’t been taking your kids to have their eyes examined, you’re not alone. It has been determined that parents are on the ball with taking their kids for dental examinations as 70 percent of kids visit the dentist once a year, but when it comes to the optometrist, only 25 percent of kids have their eyes checked each year. So why is this?
Apparently, it’s not that parents are just refusing to take their kids for eye exams or that they consciously decide that they won’t, but rather it’s because it just doesn’t occur to them that their children need their eyes checked. Many parents assume that if there is a problem with their kids’ eyes that their kids will say something and let them know they’re having trouble seeing clearly or whatever the issue may be.
Or the parents think that if there is a problem with their kids’ eyes that they or their teachers will begin to notice some behavior problems or learning issues such as having difficult reading, sitting too close to the TV, squinting to see, or acting out due to the frustration of not being able to see clearly. It’s also possible that many parents assume that if they themselves don’t have eye or vision problems that their child won’t either.
The thing is, not all vision problems present themselves with obvious symptoms and it’s possible that even if your child does have a vision problem, they may not realize there is an issue so they won’t say anything about it.
The reason why more parents take their children in for dental exams than eye exams is because dental problems can usually be seen, such as cavities or broken or chipped teeth. Kids are also much more vocal about whether or not their teeth or mouth hurt. And since it is constantly drilled into everyone’s brains that dental care is important and brushing and flossing is essential for keeping your teeth healthy, more parents take their kids in for dental exams on a regular basis.
Eye Problems in Children
The chances of your child having a severe visual impairment or eye disease is rare, but the chances of your child having other less severe eye issues such as hyperopia (farsightedness) or amblyopia (lazy eye) is much more common. In fact, according to Prevent Blindness America, one out of four kids has some kind of eye or vision problem.
Some children also may have problems with focusing their eyes or with coordination of both of their eyes, or your child could have developmental disorders with their eyes, all of which can only be made clearly evident through a thorough eye examination.
Some parents forgo taking their kids to the eye doctor because they are afraid that glasses that aren’t really needed will be prescribed for their child. There are people who believe that wearing glasses can actually weaken your eyes, and this may also be another reason that parents don’t have their child’s eyes examined regularly.
Warning Signs of Vision Problems
While you shouldn’t wait for warning signs to become apparent before taking your child to have their eyes examined, there are various signs you can look for between exams that will alert you to issues that should be looked at right away:
- If you notice that your child has begun sitting really close to the TV or holding their book really close to their face
- If you have a child who hasn’t had issues with reading in the past but suddenly starts losing their place while reading or using their finger to keep from losing their place
- If you notice that your child has started squinting or tilting their head to the side when trying to see or read something
- If they begin rubbing their eyes a lot, this could be a sign that there is a problem with their eyes, such as blurry vision or not being able to focus
- If your child has developed a sudden sensitivity to light and/or their eyes excessively tear up, take them in to have their eyes checked
- If they begin trying to avoid things that require close vision such as doing their homework or reading, or that requires distance vision such as playing sports or doing other types of activities
- If they begin complaining about frequent headaches or tired or sore eyes
- If their grades begin slipping for a reason that isn’t obvious to you or their teacher
Recommended Eye Exams
You should always take your child to have their eyes checked if you notice that there may be an issue such as those listed above, but the American Optometric Association has a recommended timetable of when and how frequently eye exams should be performed for all ages.
Kids should have their first eye exam by six months old, another one at around three years old, and then one more just before they start school. Once they enter school, they should have an eye exam every two years as long as no vision problems are detected. However, if your child has a vision problem, such as wearing glasses or contacts, they should be seen annually or as recommended by their optometrist.
The reason why it’s so important that kids receive regular eye exams is because their prescriptions can change pretty quickly as they grow and develop. It’s also important to make sure that your child has the visual skills that are needed for many extracurricular activities such as playing sports.
Your eyes are just as important to maintain and keep healthy as your teeth or any other part of your body, so be sure to keep up with those eye exams and pay close attention when your child starts exhibiting any of the warning signs listed above.