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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Go Back-to-School with Healthy Vision

Posted: 08.16.2017

With “back to school” just around the corner, it is important that all children have a vision screening to ensure that the quality of their eyesight will help, rather than hinder, their learning ability. “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.

If a young child’s eyes cannot send clear images to the brain, his or her vision may become limited in ways that cannot be corrected later in life. If problems are detected early, it may be possible to treat them effectively.

One of the many services that School Health programs offer to students is vision screening. Vision screenings at the pediatrician’s office or at the school are important since children may not realize they have a vision problem. Parents might recognize the signs of vision impairment before children express having a problem with their vision.

Below is a checklist of signs to look for that may indicate if a child has a problem affecting their vision:

  • Does your child seem to have difficulty seeing objects that you or others see?
  • Does your child hold objects very close to the face?
  • 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?

Four common vision and eye disorders in school-age children include:

  1. 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. Myopia is usually treated with glasses or contact lenses.
  2. Hyperopia, or farsightedness, which may cause headache, blurred vision or crossing of the eyes. Hyperopia is usually treated with glasses or contact lenses.
  3. 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, astigmatism, or a combination of hyperopia or myopia with astigmatism). Amblyopia is usually treated with glasses, patching or eye drops.
  4. Strabismus is another common eye disorder that refers to eyes that are misaligned by turning in, out, up or down. 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. Parents are encouraged to screen their children’s vision before starting school.

If potential eye or vision problems are detected during a vision screening, or if there is a family history of significant pediatric eye or vision disorders, 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. In contrast to a vision screening, a comprehensive eye exam involves the use of eye drops to dilate the pupil, enabling a more thorough investigation of the overall health of the eye and the visual system.