Children’s Vision and Eye Health
When children are in school, their eyes are constantly in use, both in the classroom and at play. Undetected vision problems have the potential to put children behind and delay their learning and development. That’s why it’s so important to ensure they have clear vision and a clean bill of health as they head back to school. The best way to do that, is to book a comprehensive eye exam with a Doctor of Optometry.
Many children participate in vision screening or sight test programs at school, which some parents misconstrue as a comprehensive eye exam. Those tests are limited and cannot be used to diagnose a vision or eye health problem. Eye exams performed by optometrists are important for charting a child’s eye health and ensuring they have the visual skills necessary for learning and development. They are also key to overall health maintenance and early detection of conditions, including:
• Myopia, more commonly known as nearsightedness, is a condition that is becoming more prevalent as children spend less time outside and more time on their digital devices.
• Strabismus, a condition where a child’s eyes are not properly aligned with each other, may present in multiple ways: turned in; turned out; too high; too low.
• Often beginning in early childhood (between birth and 21 months), the condition can progress and without treatment, may cause permanent vision problems such as amblyopia.
Usually developing in early childhood, amblyopia refers to when vision in one eye is reduced because the eye and brain are not working together properly. The result is a decrease in fine vision or visual acuity (sharpness). Two common causes are strabismus and refractive errors.
Other conditions that may be detected during a comprehensive eye exam include retinoblastoma – the most common type of eye cancer in children – and childhood diabetes. Early detection of these conditions is key for monitoring and treatment, and to reduce the risk of vision loss later in life.
The Alberta Association of Optometrists recommends children have at least one eye exam between the ages of two and five, and yearly after starting school. Infants should have their first eye exam between six and nine months of age. Alberta Health covers the cost of annual comprehensive eye exams for children until they turn 19. A program called Eye See…Eye Learn® also provides free eyeglasses to kindergarten-aged children who require a prescription.
Click here to find an optometrist