The gift of sight is something we all tend to take for granted. We wake up in the morning, blink once or twice, and a blurry world pops into sharp, clear focus. Our sight allows us to move easily through our daily world and plays a vital role in our ability to process and learn from the moment we enter the world. The American Optometric Association (AOA) states that 80 percent of all learning is performed through vision. For some, that clear world seen by others is fuzzy or blurry and the ability to observe and learn easily is severely impacted. The wish of any parent is for their child to avoid as many roadblocks as possible along life's road so each child is enabled and empowered to achieve his or her ultimate potential. With good vision playing such an important role in the learning and childhood development process, periodic infant and childhood visits to an eye-care professional are a must to make sure your child is seeing properly.
For children with vision problems, there are few things initially more traumatic than the prospect of getting glasses. But once the world pops into clear focus, any fears or doubts disappear. Vision problems are far from rare among children. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) states that more than 12 million children suffer from some sort of visual impairment. Those problems affect one in twenty pre-school children and one in four children of school age. Promoting good eye health for your child is a process that begins before birth and continues throughout life. The AOA provides the following life markers and actions to assure good vision and eye health for your child:
For your child's first eye examination, the AOA suggests the following tips for a positive experience:
Unless advised differently by the ophthalmologist, your child's next examination should be at age five where the ophthalmologist will compare the three and five year exams for changes and evaluate how your child's vision is developing as he or she approaches school age. Although these benchmarks offer good guidelines to calendar examinations, the American Academy of Ophthalmology notes that there are factors that may put your child an increased risk of eye disease and, if present, a more frequent examination schedule may be warranted. Those factors include:
By seeing and interacting with your child everyday, you are in a unique position to notice warning signs that your child's vision is not optimal. Be sure to inform your ophthalmologist if your child frequently:
Once in school, your child will receive vision screenings. However, the AOA advises that such a screening should not serve as a substitute for a thorough eye examination. School age signals the time to start a regular visit to the ophthalmologist at least every two years or more frequently if specific problems or risk factors exist.
Eye protection is also another area where parents can make choices that will help preserve the health and functionality of a child's eyes. The American Academy of Ophthalmology states that sports are the leading cause of eye injury in children. The AAO recommends that children wear appropriate protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses or shields when participating in baseball, basketball, football, racquet sports, soccer, wrestling, any form of hockey (ice, roller, street, and field), and lacrosse. Also, sharp objects such as pens, pencils, darts, knives, etc. are also responsible for significant eye injuries and should be handled with care. If an eye injury does occur, have a medical doctor or ophthalmologist examine the injury as soon as possible.
A child's eyes are his or her window on the world. Regular examinations and protective measures will help protect that cherished gift of sight and ensure that your child experiences a lifetime of good eye health.
As with any aspect of your family's health, consult with your family physician and eye-care specialist regarding your family's specific needs and concerns.
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