NEW YORK, Aug. 7, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Parents want to give their children everything they need to do well in school, but often one thing gets overlooked: eye exams. This back-to-school season, The Vision Council – an organization dedicated to inspiring better vision for better lives – encourages parents to be proactive about their children's eye health and schedule a comprehensive eye exam with an eyecare provider, long before their first important classroom exam.
"When parents think of back-to-school prep that should include an eye exam," says Dr. Justin Bazan, optometrist and medical adviser to The Vision Council. "Oftentimes, parents feel the eye checks at the pediatrician – or even at the school nurse's station – suffice. The truth is they are often not enough. It's important to see an eyecare provider to ensure their child(ren)'s eye health is being closely monitored from the get-go."
Eye Health Begins Early
Many vision problems and eye diseases can be detected and prevented early. For example, the most common vision problem in children is nearsightedness, or myopia, which is growing at an alarming rate and puts the eyes at risk for more serious vision-threatening conditions. Myopia effects 1.7 billion people in the world, with more than half the world expected to be myopic by 2050, so early detection in children is key. When parents know what to look for, it can be relatively easy to spot problems with a child's vision. They ought to keep an eye out for these symptoms or behaviors:
- Short attention span
- Avoiding or not liking reading
- Difficulty throwing or catching a ball, copying from a chalkboard, and/or tying their shoes
- Pulling a book in close to their face, and/or sitting too close to a TV
- Lots of blinking or eye rubbing
- Guiding their eyes with a finger or pencil while reading
- Falling performance in school
To help combat myopia, specifically, parents can encourage their children to spend more time outdoors and less time using digital devices, which may influence the development of nearsightedness.
Why Eye Exams?
According to Think About Your Eyes, a national public awareness campaign shedding light on the importance of an annual eye exam, 80 percent of all learning comes through the eyes, so children are at a strong disadvantage in school and elsewhere when they can't see properly. Additionally, close to 24 percent of parents wait for their child(ren) to have symptoms before taking them to an eyecare provider, but it's important to know a child(ren) might not be able to recognize or communicate if they have a vision problem since they don't know what constitutes "normal" vision.
Experts say 5 to 10 percent of preschoolers and a quarter of school-aged children have vision problems, which can cause challenges in learning and behavior. Too often, a child who can't see well is misdiagnosed with an unrelated behavioral problem, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This misdiagnosis can start a frustrating chain of events, from unnecessary doctor visits, to prescriptions for medications, to enrollment in special classes, when the real solution might be right before their eyes: a pair of glasses.
Additional Eye Risk Factors
In contrast with adults, children are at an increased risk for eye damage from several sources. Generally, kids receive about three times the annual amount of ultraviolet (UV) ray exposure from the sun as adults, yet just more than 56 percent of American adult parents say their child(ren) wears sunglasses, as per a survey by The Vision Council. Therefore, children should be wearing sunglasses with lenses that offer UVA/UVB protection every time they're outdoors during daylight hours.
And then there's the wealth of computer, tablet, cell phone and television screens that children stare at each day. According to a survey by The Vision Council, more than 70 percent of American adult parents report their child(ren) spend two or more hours daily on a digital device, putting them at risk for digital eye strain, which is the physical discomfort experienced after prolonged screen use. Besides playing outside, the most popular activities children engage in are playing on a digital device (23.1 percent) and watching television (20.1 percent). However, nearly 25 percent of parents are not concerned about the impact of digital devices on their child(ren)'s developing eyes. Parents surveyed say their child(ren) experience the following after two or more hours of screen time: headaches, neck/shoulder pain, eye strain, dry or irritated eyes, reduced attention span, poor behavior, and/or irritability.
Both UV eye protection and digital eye strain are key topics parents ought to mention during their child(ren)'s annual eye exam, given that an eyecare provider is the best source for more information about lens solutions available to combat the effects of the sun's UV rays, and digital devices on the eyes.
Scheduling Exams, Satisfying Needs
The Vision Council, in line with the American Optometric Association, recommends children have their first eye exam with an eyecare provider when they're between 6 months to a year old, at least once between ages 3 and 5 or as recommended, and annually starting at age 6 or before entering first grade. If a child requires glasses, parents should keep the following in mind when helping them choose their next pair:
- Eye health needs – first and foremost, ensure your child(ren)'s glasses have lenses with the proper prescription and capabilities for their unique eyes;
- Comfort and fit – the more comfortable their glasses are to wear and the better they fit, the more likely your child(ren) are to wear them. Encourage your little one to try on many pairs of frames during the appointment to ensure they choose glasses that truly are the perfect fit. Also, don't hesitate to ask about frames that offer features like removable straps, rubberized nose pads and more that make them suitable for their rough-and-tumble lifestyles;
- Activities – ensure the glasses your child(ren) chooses complement the activities they participate in inside and outside of the classroom. Depending on their activities, they may require multiple pairs of glasses;
- Style – make sure the glasses suit your child(ren)'s existing wardrobe, whether it be cutesy, sporty, simple or anything in between.
Parents ought to make eyewear seem exciting and trendy, ultimately encouraging their child(ren) to feel good about wearing frames.
"Let your children be part of the process, encouraging them to express their personal style," says Dr. Bazan. "With tons of great eyewear styles in various designs, kids who have to wear glasses will be excited to pick out their very own pair to rock in the classroom and beyond."
About The Vision Council
By sharing the latest in eyewear trends, advances in technology and advice from eyewear experts, The Vision Council educates millions of consumers about options in eyeglasses and sunglasses. Serving as the global voice for vision care products and services, The Vision Council represents the manufacturers and suppliers of the optical industry. The Vision Council positions its members to be successful in a competitive marketplace through education, advocacy, consumer outreach, strategic relationship building and industry forums. Visit the website at TheVisionCouncil.org.
SOURCE The Vision Council