Even though it’s a very important aspect of health, eye care–especially for children–is often overlooked. 1 out of 20 children ages 3 to 5 has a vision problem that could leave them permanently blind if left untreated. But, despite this statistic, 80% of preschoolers do not receive proper eye screenings (Vision Resources Center).
Signs that a child could have serious vision problems include uneven focus, lazy eye, and crossed eyes. Children should have an eye exam at 6 months and again at 3 years in order to prevent or correct any of these problems. After 3 years old, eye exams should be done regularly–about every year.
About 80% of what children are taught in school is done visually. This means that if a child has an undetected vision problem, it can negatively affect their performance in school. In fact, 60% of children with learning disabilities have an undetected vision problem. Proper detection requires proper involvement of the child’s parents. Some warning signs include:
Tilting the head or squinting to see
Frequent eye rubbing when trying to concentrate
Holding a book too close or sitting close to the TV.
Closing one eye to read or watch TV.
Excessive tearing without any tear-causing stimuli.
Sensitivity to light, which is sometimes accompanied by headache or nausea.
In general, in order to prevent eye strain, it’s recommended that children maintain good posture when using electronics, reduce screen glare, minimize exposure to blue light, and spend time outside instead of on electronics (Weill Cornell School of Medicine).
Relative to White children, children of African American, Latino, and multiracial backgrounds had approximately twice the adjusted risk of unmet need in relation to eye care (Heslin et. al). Additionally, people of African American descent are six times more likely to develop glaucoma, a condition that can lead to blindness if left untreated (American Academy of Ophthalmology). In order to address these disparities, insurance coverage and testing for eye disease must be expanded. It’s also important to educate patients (and, in the case of children, their parents) about the significance of paying attention to the signs of deteriorating eye health. And, for those who have been diagnosed with eye problems, it’s important that parents ensure that their children comply with their therapies, treatments, medications, etc.