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How to care for children’s eyesight

Taking care of children’s eyes when they are young sets them up for a lifetime of good vision and success.

One of the most important things parents can do is bring children in for a full vision exam by age 6, or before they start school. Checking for vision problems early allows providers to catch issues while they are still easy to correct. It also ensures that kids don’t have to struggle to see while in the classroom or on the field. Children who see well have more confidence and do better in school, sports, and other areas of their lives.

Many parents mistakenly believe that children who don’t complain about a vision problem don’t have one. However, children don’t know what typical vision is. They presume that what they see is normal, so they aren’t likely to mention if they can’t see the TV.

What’s more, even if children pass a basic vision screening, it doesn’t ensure their vision is healthy. Vision is not just about seeing 20/20. There are other skills involved, such as eye tracking, muscle balancing, and focusing. A complete vision exam can pick up on more subtle concerns.

As an optometrist at Vancouver Clinic, I love working with kids and their families to make sure children’s eyes are developing properly and that they are seeing well. Our vision center offers complete vision exams for individuals age 3 and up. We employ strategies to make visits comfortable for even our littlest patients. Tools and toys help exams feel more like a game, and praise, stickers, and prizes keep kids engaged.

When children need corrective lenses, we have lots of frame options and—more importantly—expert advice and tactics to help kids adapt to wearing them.

Caring for children’s eyesight is a big responsibility, so I like to let parents know that there is one worry they can take off their shoulders: blue-light glasses. Blue light from digital devices doesn’t cause damage to the retina, so there’s no need for special glasses. They may be helpful if kids spend time on devices near bedtime. Blue light exposure at night can make it difficult to fall asleep.

It’s more important for kids to wear proper eye protection when playing sports or engaging in high-risk activities. Eye injuries are not only painful, they can cause permanent damage and blindness.

For most children, an eye exam every two years is appropriate. However, if you notice your child or student squinting, holding books or devices too close to their face, rubbing their eyes, complaining of headaches, tilting the head, covering an eye, or experiencing difficulty concentrating on school work, then it’s likely they need care sooner.

If you have questions, be sure to talk to your pediatrician or make an appointment for a vision exam.

Dr. Huong Fearington is an optometrist at Vancouver Clinic. She gets to know patients personally so that she can better meet their visual needs. She believes in taking the time to educate people about how to care for their eyes so that they can make health and lifestyle changes that protect their vision.