Gear Up for Back-to-School with Healthy Vision
Amidst the school supplies, uniforms and immunizations that signal the start of the school year, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute encourages parents to take advantage of any vision screening opportunities that are available to them. “Vision plays an extremely important role in childhood development; academically, socially and athletically,” says Kara M. Cavuoto, M.D., Assistant Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.
One of the many services that School Health programs offer to students is vision screening. Screening examinations at school or at the pediatrician or family practitioner’s office are important, since children frequently do not complain of problems affecting vision or the eyes. This is particularly true when the disorder is not painful.
The following list of complaints and signs may indicate that a child has a problem affecting the eyes or vision:
- Does your child seem to have difficulty seeing objects that you or other children see well?
- Does your child hold objects close to the face when trying to focus or sit close to the television?
- Does your child have frequent headaches?
- Is there an unusual appearance to the eyes?
- Is there frequent blinking or eye rubbing?
- Is there swelling or redness in one or both eyes?
- Is there unusual sensitivity to light?
- Does your child close or cover one eye?
- Do one or both eyelids droop or does one eyelid tend to close?
- Is the iris (colored part of the eye) different in color in the two eyes?
- Do the eyes tend to “dance” or show to-and-fro movements (nystagmus)?
- Do the eyes appear to turn in, out, up or down or tend to intermittently drift off center?
- Is there a head tilt or turn, particularly when concentrating on objects at a distance or near?
- Does your child complain of seeing double?
- Does your child lose his or her place when reading?
- Does your child have difficulty remembering what he or she reads?
Four common vision and eye disorders in school-age children include:
- Myopia, or nearsightedness, is the most common vision problem in children, often developing between ages six and adolescence. With this condition, the child’s distance vision is impaired, making the blackboard or teacher at the front of the room seem blurry.
- Hyperopia, or farsightedness, which may cause headache, blurred vision or crossing of the eyes.
- Amblyopia, which literally means “dullness of vision”, refers to a reduction in vision in one, or occasionally, both eyes. Amblyopia is commonly caused by refractive error (hyperopia, myopia or astigmatism). It is sometimes referred to as “lazy eye”, although this terminology may be confusing, since parents typically refer to strabismus as lazy eye (see item 4). Amblyopia is usually treated with glasses, patching or eye drops.
- Strabismus is another common eye disorder that refers to eyes that are misaligned by turning in, out, up or down. Parents often use the term “lazy eye” to describe eyes that are constantly or intermittently misaligned. Treatment of strabismus may include eye exercises, glasses, patching, eye drops, or occasionally, surgery.
Parents should keep vision in mind when equipping their children with all the necessary tools for a successful school year. If there is a family history of significant pediatric eye or vision disorders or a potential eye or vision problem is detected during a screening examination, the child is usually referred for a comprehensive eye examination by a pediatric ophthalmologist or an eye care specialist appropriately trained to evaluate and treat pediatric patients.