Parents want the very best for their children in every aspect of their lives. From birth, parents work to ensure that their child has the best clothes, toys, food, and more. But one area often taken for granted is vision. Vision is one of the most important senses through which a child learns. Dr. Linda Chous, chief eye care officer at UnitedHealthcare Vision, is an expert on eye health and an advocate for children’s eye care. She answered some questions to help parents ensure healthy vision for their children.
When should a child have their first eye exam?
The American Optometric Association suggests children should begin a lifetime of healthy vision by having their first comprehensive eye examination by an eye doctor between the ages of 6 and 12 months. suggest children have their eyes checked at age 3 and again before they start kindergarten. Some vision problems that can be identified in childhood can result in permanent blindness if left untreated, so it is important for comprehensive eye exams to begin early in life.
How can a child’s vision be examined if they can’t read the chart?
Eye doctors have all kinds of ways to test vision without the child being able to read. Eye doctors have eye charts with pictures instead of letters, as well as objective tests that don’t require the child to answer the question, “Which is better—one or two?” Even non-verbal babies can have their vision assessed. A comprehensive eye exam evaluates not only vision, but also eye coordination, focusing, color vision, and overall eye health.
Can vision problems be inherited?
Just like eye color, children can inherit a variety of eye conditions, including nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, crossed eye, and lazy eye. It is especially important to have a child’s eyes checked if there is a family history of eye problems. Many times early treatment of these conditions for young people will help avoid delays in vision development and learning.
Do children need sunglasses?
Because the sun is shining all year long, whether it’s summertime or wintertime, everyone can be exposed to ultraviolet light that increases the risk for some eye diseases, such as cataracts and macular degeneration. As we get older, the lens of the eye changes to help protect against the effect of harmful UV rays. However, children do not develop this protection until they are older, so it is even more important for young people to wear a quality pair of sunglasses. Just as children need to wear helmets when they go bicycling, we need to remember that children should wear sun protection for their eyes.
What’s new in eye health diagnostics?
A really exciting new area that is being explored is the connection between the health of the vision system and the 3D technology used in movies and TV shows. 3D content can only be appreciated if two eyes are working together as a team. According to the American Optometry Association, about one in four children might have vision problems that can be detected by viewing 3D content. If your child complains of blurred vision, dizziness, discomfort, double-vision or eye fatigue after viewing 3D technology, it is an indication they might have uncorrected vision problems or issues related to eye alignment.
Dr. Linda Chous, chief eye care officer for UnitedHealthcare, has over 20 years’ experience with her private vision care practice. She received her doctor of optometry degree with honors from the Southern California College of Optometry and is a licensed optometrist in Minnesota and California.
For more eye care information from Dr. Chous, visit here to read her blogs, take a webinar, and learn about eye health.
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