Children’s Eye Health and Safety
- Posted on: Aug 3 2020
Children’s Eye Health and Safety
August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety month! In this blog, we’ll discuss the importance of early eye care for kids, and the best ways to keep your child’s eyes safe and healthy.
Vision Development in Children
Vision plays a great role in how children grow and learn, as this is one of their first pathways for absorbing information. When babies are born, their vision is still developing. While they can see, they cannot focus on objects or images. By 8-12 weeks of age, they will develop the ability to focus on and track objects about 8-10 inches away. By 6 months, they will develop depth perception and color vision. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), your baby should have their first eye exam at 6 months of age.
Eye Problems in Children
As children grow, it is important to monitor them for signs of eye and vision problems. One common problem is misalignment in the eyes, such as turns or wandering. This misalignment, called strabismus, may lead to amblyopia or “lazy eye”. Amblyopia is a condition in which the brain does not recognize input from the weaker eye, eventually shutting it off and relying only on the image from the stronger eye. Early intervention is key, as this condition may lead to permanent vision loss if not corrected by age 9.
Another sign parents should look for is the “red reflex”. The red reflex occurs when light bounces off of the retina, causing a red reflection. This is visible as “red eye” in photographs, and should be present in both eyes if the eyes are healthy. If red reflex is absent in one or both eyes, this may indicate the presence of cataracts or a tumor. During an eye exam, your optometrist will test your child’s red reflex and look inside the eye to check for problems.
In addition to these problems, symptoms such as excessive watering, redness, crusty eyelids, and sensitivity to light may indicate eye problems. It is important to consult your pediatrician or your optometrist if you have any concerns about your child’s eyes.
According to Prevent Blindness, the most common vision disorders in children are refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism). Uncorrected refractive errors in infants and preschool-age children are associated with parental concerns about developmental delay, as well as with clinically identified deficits in cognitive and visual-motor functions that may in turn affect school readiness. These conditions are most commonly treated with glasses. Children who need glasses are often asymptomatic. You may notice your child squinting or complaining of headaches, or holding objects closer to their eyes than usual . Other signs that your child has a visual problem may include trouble concentrating, trouble with reading comprehension, rubbing their eyes, tilting their head, or trouble with hand-eye coordination. Treating visual imbalances early is essential for proper eye function, as well as proper development. It is necessary to have your child seen by an optometrist as soon as problems are detected. Some parents may think that their child does not need to have an eye exam if they were screened at school, but this is incorrect. Screenings serve as a basic vision test, but do not replace a comprehensive evaluation. An additional eye exam should be scheduled between 3 and 5 years of age, to rule out eye disease and ensure proper eye development.
If your optometrist prescribes prescription eyewear for your child, you should work with an optician to ensure your child’s glasses fit correctly and offer adequate safety. Children’s lenses should be made from a shatterproof material like polycarbonate or Trivex. These materials also offer 100% UV protection.
All children need UV protection when outdoors. According to The Vision Council, kids generally receive three times the sun exposure of adults, yet only 5% of parents say their children wear sunglasses. Children’s eyes filter out less harmful UV than adult eyes due to the clarity of their crystalline lens. This means that they are more susceptible to the sun’s harmful rays. Like adults, children should wear 100% UV blocking sunglasses anytime they are outside, even if it is cloudy. For more information about the dangers of UV, read our blog UV and Your Eyes.
Many children who require vision correction are interested in contact lenses. This is especially true for kids who are involved in sports. According to the AOA, 51% of optometrists feel it is appropriate to introduce children to soft contact lenses between the ages of 10 and 12 years old. Kids all develop differently, and it is up to you and your optometrist to determine whether or not your child is ready to wear contacts. Contact lenses can cause serious and permanent eye damage if not worn or cared for correctly.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children, and more than 90 percent of children’s eye injuries can be prevented with protective goggles. Children who engage in sports or activities with a risk of eye injury should wear wrap around glasses or goggles with shatterproof lenses. Regular eyewear is inadequate for sports, and may cause further injury if it shatters on impact.
Children have specific eye care needs, and routine care should start early. AOA guidelines state that children should have an eye exam at 6-12 months, 3-5 years and annually from age 5 and up. If your child is found to have an eye or vision problem, early intervention is key. If you would like to schedule an eye exam for your child, please call or text (907) 328-2920. Thank you for taking the time to read our blog, and stay tuned for more!
Written by: Gina Stafford, COA, LDO, ABOC
American Optometric Association Infant Vision: Birth to 24 month of age https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/good-vision-throughout-life/childrens-vision/infant-vision-birth-to-24-months-of-age#1
Children & Contact Lenses https://www.aoa.org/documents/npr10520_executivesummarychildrenandcontactlensesstudy_final.pdf
Prevent Blindness Common Children’s Vision Problems https://preventblindness.org/prevalence-and-impact-of-vision-disorders-in-u-s-children/
The Vision Council Eye Care and Protection https://www.thevisioncouncil.org/content/uv-eye-protection/kids
American Academy of Ophthalmology 20 Things to Know About Children’s Eyes and Vision https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/tips-children-eyes-vision