Dr. Vanessa Mills of Providence Eye & Laser Specialists discusses the importance of assessing vision issues during childhood, as August is deemed “Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month” by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
Children’s eye health and safety is of particular interest to me because not only am I an optometrist, but I am also the mother of two young children. A child’s eyes are not fully formed at birth; a child’s visual system continues to develop over the first few years of life. Much like walking and talking, utilizing vision and navigating how the brain processes visual information is a learned skill. It is essential for both eyes to work together, so images can enter each eye clearly. This allows for normal connection development to the brain’s vision center and thus creates normal vision.
This critical period of laying down the proper wiring and messaging from the eye to the brain occurs in the first few years of a child’s life. If one eye happens to work more than the other, or if one eye sees a clearer image over the other, the child is at risk to have limited vision that may not be correctable later on in life. This can have a large impact on a child’s ability to perform well in school, play sports and perform numerous activities throughout their entire life. However, if problems are detected early enough by reputable and experienced eye care doctors, effective treatment is typically possible and can provide life-long vision benefits. Some adults may become ideal candidates for LASIK eye surgery during their lifetime, but this is not a panacea for all vision issues stemming from childhood.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommend a full comprehensive eye examination for every child between the ages of 3 and 4 with either an ophthalmologist or an optometrist in order to catch any vision system abnormalities. Most pediatricians perform general eye screenings at a child’s wellness visits prior to this age. Early detection and treatment provide the very best opportunity to correct vision problems, so your child can learn to see clearly.
In addition to taking children to eye care doctors and having them undergo comprehensive eye examinations at an early age, Providence Eye recommends practicing preventative care. August and September translate to children preparing to head back to the classroom for another academic year. With classes around the corner, the start of many children-related sports and activities are ramping up as well. Eye injuries are one of the leading causes of vision loss in children, many of them being sports-related. Always remember to teach your children to wear protective eyewear while participating in sports or activities. Also, make sure children, especially young children, are playing with age-appropriate toys; ones that do not include sharp or protruding parts. Eye care doctors are a wonderful and necessary resource, but the best example for children is to embody your own personal examples of healthy vision care habits.
For more information about children’s eye health and safety, check out our blogs on minimizing chances for emergency trips to the eye care doctor and learn how to keep children’s eyes safe during the holidays.