What you should know about your child’s eye health
Keeping a close watch on your children’s eye health is important to catching problems early. Especially when you consider that one of four school-age children has a vision disorder, according to the American Optometric Association.
“Screening is an essential part of this because children may not realize when their vision isn’t normal,” said Amy Negovan, RN, CPNP, Program Director, Partners for Healthy Students (PHS), Dignity Health Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC).
Here’s a look at how to care for your child’s eyes at different stages.
Babies can be born with cataracts, blocked tear ducts, and other eye issues. That’s why newborns’ eyes are checked to ensure they’re healthy. Premature or low birthweight babies are considered at high risk for vision loss. These children will need additional monitoring as they grow.
Toddlers and young children
“It’s important that all children undergo both vision screenings and eye exams as they’re growing and changing,” Amy said. “A vision screening can detect nearsightedness or farsightedness early. An eye exam is a detailed check of the child’s eyes and eye health.”
A comprehensive eye exam is recommended for children between 12- and 36-months old. During these exams, PHS pediatric nurse practitioners check the back of the eye – retina, optic disc, and blood vessels – using an ophthalmoscope. These exams can identify abnormalities that need further examination by an ophthalmologist. Two of the most common childhood eye conditions are:
- Amblyopia – Also known as “lazy eye,” treatment for this may include an eye patch, eye drops, or eyeglasses.
- Strabismus – Often called “crossed eyes,” this condition may be treated with special eyewear or an eye patch. Severe cases may require surgery.
5 years and older
Beginning at age 5, experts recommend annual vision screenings for children. That’s good timing as children often become farsighted or nearsighted between the ages of 6 and 12. While farsightedness often improves with age, being nearsighted typically worsens. Eyeglasses or contact lenses can correct either condition.
How can parents tell if their youngster has a vision problem? Headaches, tired or sore eyes, and squinting indicates nearsightedness. Trouble seeing things up close signals farsightedness. Less obvious signs of vision problems include quickly losing interest in activities that require eye use or easily losing their place when reading.
At all ages: Eye health and screen time
Lots of screen time may lead to nearsightedness and eye strain. To help prevent this, teach your child the 20-20-20 rule: look up from the screen every 20 minutes and focus at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
“Good vision is key to a child’s physical development, success in school, and overall well being,” said Amy. “Fortunately, screening and prevention strategies can identify issues early and give children the best outcomes possible.”
PHS provides primary health care services to Quad Cities families at school-based clinics and a mobile health clinic. The program helps bridge the gap for uninsured or underinsured families, and those with AHCCCS or KidsCare.
For more information, visit Partners for Healthy Students at DignityHealth.org/YRMC or call 928.771.5662 to schedule an appointment.