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Noyes Health / About Noyes / News / Article

Your Child’s Vision

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The world is getting blurry, fuzzy, and out of focus. Literally, we are not seeing as well as we did in the past. According to a May, 2016 article in the American Academy of Ophthalmology Journal, 50% of the world’s population, nearly 5 billion people will be myopic by the year 2050. Currently, 30% of the U.S. population struggles with myopia (nearsightedness). Overall, 40% of Americans need glasses to correct their vision. Children are not exempt from this malady. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) reports more than a third of U.S. children ages 12 to 17 are nearsighted, a sharp increase from the 1970s when only 24% in this age group had myopia. Researchers don’t know exactly all the reasons this is occurring but they suspect lifestyle changes are the culprit. Studies indicate that decreased time outdoors and increased near work activities, particularly computer, tablet, and cell phone use are to blame.

The American Optometric Association (AOA) reports that 80% of the learning a child does occurs through his or her eyes. Good vision is necessary for reading, writing, music, art, sports, and more. Vision is more than just seeing clearly. The eyes work together with the brain to recognize, comprehend, and retain information. To effectively read and learn for instance, the eyes focus in on words, help us track sentences across and down a page, and work together to judge distances and spaces. In addition, as a child progresses through K-12, the eyes have a greater workload. With each successive grade, there is more reading, more computer work, smaller print, and increased homework and study time. Bottom line, good vision is critical for school work and success. If glasses or contacts are needed, specialists say the earlier, the better. When a vision problem is detected and treated in its early stages, it is more likely the treatment will be successful.

Vision can change frequently during the school years so regular eye and vision care is important. Sadly, many children never have their eyes checked. The AAO states almost 40% of children in the U.S. have never undergone a vision screening. The school year starts in just a few short weeks and it is a great time to schedule a comprehensive exam. It is recommended that a child receive an eye examination at least once every two years – more frequently if there are specific problems or risk factors. It is important to note that school and pediatric vision screening may only test for distance visual acuity. Furthermore, children often do not recognize vision problems; they think everyone sees as they do and it is normal.

The AOA and the AAO suggest the following signs may indicate your child has a vision problem:

  • Frequent eye rubbing or blinking

  • Short attention span

  • Avoiding reading and other close activities

  • Frequent headaches

  • Covering one eye

  • Tilting the head to one side

  • Holding reading materials close to the face

  • An eye turning in or out

  • Seeing double

  • Losing place when reading

  • Difficulty remembering what he or she read

  • Squinting when looking in the distance

  • Sitting to close to the TV

Frequent eye rubbing or blinking

Short attention span

Avoiding reading and other close activities

Frequent headaches

Covering one eye

Tilting the head to one side

Holding reading materials close to the face

An eye turning in or out

Seeing double

Losing place when reading

Difficulty remembering what he or she read

Squinting when looking in the distance

Sitting to close to the TV

To learn more about children and vision, check out these websites:

American Optometric Association - http://www.aoa.org/?sso=y

American Academy of Ophthalmology - http://www.aao.org/

National Eye Institute - https://nei.nih.gov/

To help a child in your life learn more about vision in a fun, creative way, log onto:

https://nei.nih.gov/kids

Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at lwichtowski@noyeshealth.org or 585-335-4327.

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