As parents, we obviously love our children and want to do the best for them in terms of their health. An area that is often overlooked is our child’s ocular health.
Many parents think having the Pediatrician look at their baby’s eyes is sufficient enough for an eye exam. Sadly, it’s not. The American Optometric Association recommends children have their first eye exam at 6 months old! Then another check up when they are 3 and 5 years old. Once school begins, children need regular yearly comprehensive eye exams, with dilation, from a Pediatric Optometrist or Ophthalmologist.
During the early years, a child’s eyes are still developing and it’s critical to catch any problems before the age of 7. After that age, it becomes much more difficult to correct problems such as amblyopia, also known as a ‘lazy eye’. We can’t count on our children to tell us when something is wrong: poor vision in one eye is not noticeable by a child if they’ve had it for a long time. How often have you covered one eye and then the other to compare the vision? Children pretty much never do this. Infant and toddler exams are mostly objective and do not require any verbal response. The Optometrist can check rough visual acuities (how clear they see), check the health of the developing ocular structures, and evaluate eye muscle movement and coordination. As they get older, we begin to check color vision, depth perception and prescriptions. Many ocular conditions are causes for behavioral problems, inability to learn in school and conditions such as AD/HD. An Optometrist can even detect a form of cancer called Retinoblastoma in a child’s eye.
Here are some signs to look for to check if your child may have a vision problem:
-Child tilts their head to the side or towards one eye when reading or watching TV
-A white pupil in the center of in one eye
-Dislikes, removes 3-D glasses or complains about blurriness when watching a 3-D movie
-Squinting when reading or watching TV
-Needing to read with their fingers on the page
-Preference for using one eye or using hair to cover one eye all the time
-Headaches after a few minutes of reading or falls asleep while reading when they should not be tired
-Skipping words or lines when reading
-Holding books/reading materials unusually close
-One eye moves or drifts inward or outwards
-Constant eye rubbing
To all the parents, I hope this encourages you to take an active role in caring for your child’s eyes. We can’t wait until our children tell us there’s a problem because by then, it may be too late.
-Dr. Dennis Cheng
Fort Greene, Brooklyn