Make sure your child’s vision needs are addressed before the school year begins

As summer break comes to an end and you prepare your child to head back to school, one of the most important things on your checklist should be to see an optometrist for your child’s eye exam.

Children use their eyes extensively throughout the school day for reading, working at the computer, seeing the board. Many children are also involved in after-school sports like basketball or soccer. To be able to perform effectively in school and sports, it is important that your child can see clearly.

More often than not, children may not realize that they are not seeing well, or that their vision has changed. A common misconception parents have is that if their child has passed the school vision screening, they must be seeing well and do not have any visual problems. Having “good vision” is not just being able to see 20/20 far away, but also includes other visual skills, like being able to use both eyes together to maintain clear focus, depth perception, hand-eye coordination and visual perception. If any of these skills are lacking, it may cause eyestrain, fatigue and headaches when reading. It may also affect performance in sports.

Vision screenings are helpful in detecting problems seeing far away, often caused by conditions like myopia (nearsightedness) and amblyopia (lazy eye). However, many other conditions that hinder a child’s ability to achieve and maintain clear vision and focus when reading, like hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism and accommodative and vergence disorders, often go undetected. Fortunately, some states have enacted laws requiring comprehensive eye examinations for children prior to starting school so that problems are diagnosed and treated at an early age.

Most problems can be treated with prescriptive eyewear, but some may require vision therapy or surgical treatment. If your child will be wearing contact lenses, it is important to have a backup pair of glasses. When purchasing glasses, consider a blue light-filtering lens to help minimize eye strain and exposure to harmful blue light emitted from computers, tablets and other digital devices. Photochromic lenses are an easy way to add sun protection to the lenses for when your child is outdoors. For children who will be participating in sports, protective eyewear should also be made a priority. Finally, it is recommended to have a second pair of glasses as backup in case one breaks or gets lost.

You are encouraged to see your optometrist any time your child is experiencing problems with their vision. Back-to-school season is a great reminder that your child’s eyes need to be checked regularly to make sure they are healthy and ready to take on the visual demands of another school year.