Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Do Your Children Get Eye Exams?

I know a lot of parents that don't get annual eye exams for their children. You should, and here's why...

Meet Mensa’s youngest US member: She joined at age 2
Once thought to be delayed, little Emmelyn Roettger just needed glasses

On the Today Show, Ann Curry sat down with the Roettger family, whose daughter Emme is the youngest Mesa member ever. However, as an infant, Emme was misdiagnosed with “unspecified delays” and was thought to have autism - until she had a routine eye exam. Emme didn’t have special needs; she just had a vision problem. Now at the age of 3 with her glasses on, she is excelling.

We asked Dr. Leanne Liddicoat a few questions about eye exams for children.
1.       How old should a child be when they receive their first eye exam?  Most people are surprised to hear a child should have their first eye exam at six months of age. . Newborns can’t see very clearly. In fact, they can only focus on things 7 to 10 inches past their face and can only see highly contrasted colors. Around six months, however, their visual acuity sharpens. At this time eye doctors can effectively evaluate the development of the eyes, as well as how well they work together, which is called binocular vision. 

2.       How often should children receive an eye exam?  After the first infant eye exam, children should receive a comprehensive eye exam when they are three years old or before entering school and every year after that. A child’s eyes will continue to develop until they reach about seven years of age. At this point the eyes have reached full maturity and it is much more difficult to correct vision problems that could have been avoided. 

3.       What are some of the most common vision problems among children?  The most common vision issues for children are nearsightedness, farsightedness, crossed eyes, lazy eyes and astigmatism (when the eye is slightly more football-shaped than round – often causing blurry vision). 

4.       What other kinds of problems can be detected through an eye exam?    An eye exam can detect all sorts of things like dry eye, color vision deficiency, glaucoma and cataracts. Because eye exams provide the only unobstructed view of the blood vessels, optometrists can also detect early signs of chronic diseases in the body, such as diabetes (which is a growing epidemic among children) years before a patient displays symptoms.

5.       What are some commons signs of vision problems that parents should be aware of?  There are several common signs that may indicate a child is having trouble with their vision. Parents should discuss these signs with both their children and optometrists to ensure their children do not have underlying vision issues:
  • losing place on the page when reading
  • consistent rubbing of the eyes
  • tilting of the head when looking at an object
  • consistent headaches
  • squinting to read or watch TV
  • holding things closer to the face than normal
  • avoiding “close work”
  • poor grades and behavioral problems can also be related to visual problems

6.       What are the repercussions of undiagnosed or misdiagnosed vision problems in young children?  If a child waits too long to have an eye exam, a correctable visual problem may become permanent. For example, while a crossed eye may not seem bad, if left untreated, it can cause serious damage.  When one eye isn’t functioning properly, the brain often begins to ignore it. Once that starts to happen, it renders that eye essentially blind. However, if a child is treated for the condition early on, the lazy eye can be fixed and any permanent damage can be avoided.  

7.       What is the difference between an in-school screening and a comprehensive eye exam?  In-school screenings help to identify children people with major vision problems, such as near and farsightedness. Unfortunately they do not test for all of the problems that a comprehensive eye exam tests for and can often mislead students—and parents alike—into thinking the child’s eyes are healthy. For example, screenings typically don’t test binocular vision (the eyes working together), which is essential for academic performance.

8.       Is there a difference between eye exams for children and adults?  After an infant exam, no. An eye doctor may customize the care of each patient differently and include more extensive tests for some patients than others, but most eye exams are the same for everyone.

Visit VSP for more information! You can search for a VSP doctor near you and find valuable eye care information on their site!
About Leanne Liddicoat, O.D. VSP Optometrist


Dr. Leanne Liddicoat completed her undergraduate studies at the University of California at Davis in Economics. Her own eyesight issues and desire to help others led her into a career in optometry. She attended the University of California at Berkeley and completed a doctorate in Optometry in 1998, receiving awards for both her thesis work in emergency eye care as well as for her work in vision related learning disorders. With a passion for children, Dr. Liddicoat has coordinated school vision screenings, published articles and given many presentations on vision therapy to other colleagues, pediatricians, school teachers, administrators and parents. She enjoys fitting specialty contact lenses and managing ocular disease, as well as providing routine care and assessing vision –related learning problems. After practicing in a private practice in the South Bay Area for three years, she and her husband happily settled in the Sacramento area in 2001. She has transitioned her practice from the Rocklin/Citrus Heights areas to her new practice home in Roseville at ClearVue EyeCare.

Disclosure: I was compensated for this post. Any opinions expressed are mine and not influenced in any way.

No comments: