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6 Signs You Should Get Your Kids’ Eyes Checked

Learn why regular optometrist appointments are just as important as checkups with your doctor and dentist

6 Signs You Should Get Your Kids’ Eyes Checked
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With the school year back in full swing, many parents are breathing a sigh of relief as their families settle into a routine. This time of year often signifies a fresh start — and is the perfect opportunity to establish healthier habits and set some new goals. That also makes it a great time to ensure that everyone’s health and wellness appointments are up-to-date.

Physicals and dental check-ups are often at the top of people’s to-do lists for their children, but regular eye exams are just as important. Impaired vision can have a significant impact on a child's school experience and overall wellbeing outside of the classroom. This is especially true as the rate of myopia (otherwise known as nearsightedness) is on the rise. “Children often won’t realize their vision is blurry until it is particularly debilitating, so a pre-emptive eye exam is very important,” explains Naomi Barber, director of optometry at Specsavers.

Signs of Myopia

It can be especially difficult for kids to recognize that their eyesight is impaired because they are not used to seeing any other way. However, they often display signs that something isn’t right. For instance, a child might:

  • complain of headaches;
  • say that their eyes hurt;
  • feel fatigued;
  • rub their eyes a lot;
  • squint; or,
  • have trouble focusing on tasks, especially in school.

How poor vision affects academics

While it may surprise parents to know that their child’s vision can be linked to poor performance in the classroom, Barber says it makes perfect sense. “It is estimated that 80 percent of what is taught in schools is being presented visually, and often at a distance,” she says. “If your child has myopia, they can be missing out on a lot of learning, which can hinder their educational experience.”

If students are unable to keep up with their peers because they can't see the board, it could result in them falling further behind each year. And, academics aside, the build-up of frustration and resentment can lead to behavioural and emotional concerns. Kids diagnosed with myopia are also at a higher risk of developing other sight-threatening conditions as they age, such as retinal detachment, myopic macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts. If left unchecked, myopia can eventually lead to severe vision loss.

What you need to know about myopia

Myopia is now considered to be a global health concern. The condition currently affects 30 percent of the world’s population, but that number is expected to rise to a shocking 50 percent by 2050. While genetics can play a part, other factors contributing to the increase include less time spent outdoors, more time in front of screens and working in areas that aren’t well-lit.

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“The good news is that myopia progression can now be managed in numerous ways,” says Barber. That’s why early detection is key. In fact, there are multiple proven methods to slow the progression of vision loss. “Sometimes this will involve glasses or contact lenses; other times this may involve eye drops,” she adds, while also reminding parents that treatment should always be prescribed and managed by an optometrist. You can also make lifestyle changes that may help slow the progression, such as spending more time outdoors and reducing screen time.

What eye exams can tell you

So when should eye exams begin? The Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends the first one should happen during infancy, between the age of four to six months. After the initial visit, most children won’t need another checkup until just before they start school and then every 12 months until adulthood.

While some schools do offer vision screenings, they aren’t nearly as comprehensive as an exam by an optometrist. Specsavers makes it easy to book an appointment for an eye exam with an independent optometrist by visiting the Specsavers website or calling the location closest to you. Each Specsavers is outfitted with the latest in imaging and clinical technology available, such as 3D eye scans, also known as an optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan which are included as part of the standard eye exam where it is appropriate for the child. The scan takes only a few seconds but provides an optometrist with a detailed look at the eyes, which can help detect other issues, like glaucoma, diabetes and even certain cancers. Annual routine eye exams are an insured benefit in Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario for children, subject to certain restrictions. Ask your optometrist for more information.

Early intervention can help to avoid complications in the future, and can have other positive effects explains Barber. “Identifying and managing your child’s myopia can have significant benefits to their education, confidence and development, whether it’s in the classroom or even while participating in extracurricular activities.”

This article was originally published on Sep 28, 2023

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