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Children's Eye Health and Safety

Dr. Baker's article on Children's Eye Health, Published in the August 2012 issue of Women's Focus Magazine.

With August being Children’s Eye Health and Safety month we would like to focus on common visual deficiencies, how a child’s eyes work to read and important safety tips for your child’s eyes.

The three main refractive errors are nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia) and astigmatism. Nearsighted children see well up close, but not far away and may “fool” a lot of educators and parents as they typically do quite well in school. Farsighted children can see great far away, but may struggle to focus to read for long periods of time with decreased comprehension. Astigmatism causes varying levels of blur because the cornea (the clear front part of the eye), or the lens inside the eye is “out-of-round”. All three of these conditions can be corrected in most children with prescription glasses.

The eyes also need to accommodate or focus on a near target adequately and be able to maintain that focus while reading. The lens inside of the eye has to “change” its shape or accommodate on the page of a book in coordination with the muscles in the eye and proper signals from the brain. In some cases, reading glasses are an appropriate treatment for accommodation deficiencies.

The eyes also need to “point-in” or converge to read the words on a page. Even if your child sees 20/20, if their eyes under-converge or over-converge, they will struggle to read. Under or over-converging causes words on a page to variably go in and out of focus. If your child over-converges, reading glasses may alleviate this problem. In some instances of under-convergence, glasses are not warranted but rather visual therapy, a form of physical therapy for the eyes, is needed to fix the problem.

The only way to be certain that your child is seeing to the best of their ability is to schedule a routine eye examination. During the exam the optometrist will test your child’s visual function to determine the steps necessary to correct any vision issues and maximize their performance in the classroom, on the sports field and to navigate the complex digital world we live in.

Steps also need to be taken to insure the safety of your children’s eyes. Throughout the summer, families spend a lot of time together at the lake and pool. While these activities give us a chance to cool down they also put us in direct contact with the elements, including sun and wind exposure. Recent studies have shown that ultraviolet (U.V.) light contributes to cataract formation, as well as, a contributing factor in Age Related Macular Degeneration. These studies also show that U.V. light has more of an effect on children than adults. One of the best things you can do, from a health standpoint, for your child is to get them a good pair of sunglasses that blocks 100% of the UVA and UVB light and get them in the habit of wearing them. And as always, contact lenses should never be worn while swimming in pools, lakes and oceans as toxicity and microbial contamination rates are high.