This post is indeed about pediatric eye exams, but let’s talk about your visual experience initially. Imagine for a moment you are in a work meeting that really means something. There might be a PowerPoint presentation or a potential client twenty feet away… but you forgot your glasses. Or, if you don’t need glasses to see far away, consider what this view would be like if you had some other person’s glasses on. It would all be blurred and you would not be able to be fully engaged with the speaker. Chances are you would not learn much or be able to connect with them in a meaningful way.
Now imagine you just sent your kids to school with vision this bad. Not a very good feeling, is it? Each parent wants to give their children every possible chance to perform at their best in school. Your local eye doctor wants the same for them. It is important for your kids to have pediatric eye exams to have their eyes checked for health and to address the blur mentioned above, which is typically due to an issue called “refractive error”.
Refractive error is a common problem that affects the majority of us to one extent or another. The three forms of refractive error seen in children are hyperopia aka “far-sightedness”, myopia aka “near-sightedness” and astigmatism. Any of these can be bad enough for your child to need glasses and/or contact lenses. Some children have milder forms of refractive error and may not need glasses. Other patients have no measurable prescription in either eye. There’s only one way to know which category your kids are in: get them a pediatric eye exam. Even if your child ends up not needing glasses, it is worth making an appointment at the eye doctor. Your optometrist will do much more than see if your little ones need glasses at their pediatric eye exam. Yearly check ups at the optometrist are important for optimal eye health. Even kids who don’t need glasses should be checked every one to two years to ensure continued eye health. Nearly everyone with health insurance as coverage for routine vision care for kids age 18 or younger.
There are lots of children who have no idea that their vision is poor, because it has always been blurry. So don’t assume that your kids would tell you if their vision is bad in one or both eyes. Your kids may have no idea that blurry vision or eye strain is abnormal. Plenty of smart kids think that they are not as intelligent as the other kids in their class simply because they cannot see the board. They end up frustrated and may even be put into remedial English due to poor scholastic performance. Don’t let your children be the ones who get Cs when they could be earning A’s and B’s…. if only they could see the board.
There are also a number of pediatric-specific eye health and vision issues that can best be addressed if they are caught early with routine pediatric exams. If you have health insurance for your family, your children almost certainly have some sort of vision insurance due to the Affordable Care Act. While it is important that your child see their pediatrician regularly, the vision screening that they (or the school nurse) give is NOT the same as a comprehensive eye exam with your local optometrist. A good time for a child’s first eye exam is prior to first grade, or sooner if you suspect there may be an issue. So, whether your son or daughter wears glasses, contacts, or seems to see just fine, make back to school time back to the eye doctor time in your family. At Cannon EyeCare in Seattle, Washington, we are happy to do pediatric eye exams on kids age 5 and up. If you feel your child has vision issues or just want to get eye health checked earlier, we are happy to provide a referral to a pediatric vision specialist.
Sincerely, Dr. Mark Cannon, optometrist @ Cannon EyeCare (at Market Optical) in Seattle, Washington