Here’s Looking at You, Kid: A Guide to Eye Health

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In a rush to buy lunchboxes and new clothes, it’s easy to overlook a significant player in your child’s academic success: her or his eye health.

Another school year brings new topics and tests; however, your student’s most important exam should happen before the first bell rings. Regular eye exams establish a baseline, or standard, of information for your eye doctor. So, if you or your child develop vision problems, your eye doctor will be able to spot them quickly. During your exam, be sure to let your doctor know if close a family member has an eye disease or condition.

“Typically, a pediatrician will examine a baby’s eyes throughout the first few years of life. If no problems are suspected and if there is no family history of eye diseases, all children can wait until their fifth birthday to get a complete eye exam, followed by exams every one to two years after that,” says Dr. Ta Chen P. Chang, pediatric ophthalmology expert at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, part of the University of Miami Health System.

The most common childhood eye conditions include:

If diagnosed early, most of these are easily treated.

So, Dr. Chang recommends scheduling an appointment with a pediatric ophthalmologist if your child experiences:

  • Frequent squinting or eye rubbing
  • Eyes that don’t move together
  • One eye turning in or out
  • Light sensitivity
  • Excessive tearing
  • A white or grayish-white pupil
  • Difficulty seeing objects far away or holding objects very close to the face
  • Failed vision screening at the pediatrician’s office

As any parent knows, active kids and accidents often go together.

How can I protect my kid from eye injuries?

  • Purchase age-appropriate toys.
  • Supervise small children when they use scissors, pencils, elastic bungee cords, knives, or other sharp objects.
  • Keep household cleaners, detergents, and chemicals out of reach.
  • Provide protective eyewear for sports and other activities where there’s a risk of injury. (Corrective eyeglasses aren’t sufficient.)
  • Encourage teenagers to 1) clean or replace their contact lenses regularly, 2) replace the case every three months, and 3) follow their doctor’s advice about sleeping with contacts.
  • Seek immediate medical attention for any eye injury.

Even though August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, remember being proactive protects your child’s vision all year long.

Nancy Moreland is a contributing writer for UMiami Health News.