Vision is essential to a child’s development and can affect success in school and over all well-being. That’s why it’s important to check vision at the time a baby is born, during infancy, and then regularly during pre-school and school years. High risk newborns with a family history of eye problems should be examined by an eye doctor. School aged children (5-17) should visit their eye doctor regularly (every two years) for an eye exam. If they wear corrective lenses, they should visit their eye doctor annually for changes.
According to the American Public Health Association, 10% of young children have eye problems. The hard part is, getting early treatment as children this age will usually not express a vision problem verbally. Parents should look for signs in pre-school aged children, to see if their child needs to visit an optometrist. If problems are detected early, it is usually possible to treat issues effectively. Therefore, it’s important for parents to watch for any signs of vision problems, which can include:
- Sitting close to the TV to see
- Holding a book to close to eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Poor eye-hand-body coordination
- Avoiding hands on activities like coloring or puzzles
- Squinting eyes or tilting head when looking at objects
- Frequently eye-rubbing
- Shorter than normal attention span
- Turning of an eye (in or out)
If any these signs are present and there is a concern, then contacting an eye care provider for a comprehensive vision exam is recommended.
Lastly, there is a difference between optometrists and ophthalmologists and the services or treatments they provide. Most optometrists can offer treatment for common eye problems. These can include dry eyes and common infections. However, for certain disease and disorders it will usually require treatment by an ophthalmologist. Pediatric ophthalmologists are doctors who have additional special training to treat kids’ eye problems.
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