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Child Eye Exams

Eye exams are a must for children.

Imagine this fairly common tale: A bright and intelligent child is bringing home below average grades. The concerned family springs into action to understand why this student's academic achievement is lacking.

The solution, after some investigation, comes into focus: The child's vision is not as sharp as it should be, and he simply cannot see to learn his lessons.

After a trip for an eye examination and a pair of eyeglasses, the child's grades improve - and so does his quality of life.

Children, according to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS), may need eyeglasses for a variety of reasons, many of which are different than the requirements of adults.

Of course, some children don glasses in order to improve their vision, but they may also need help straightening "crossed" or misaligned eyes (strabismus), straightening the vision of a weak eye (amblyopia or "lazy eye"), or providing protection for one eye if the other eye has poor vision.

Interestingly, many children are far-sighted early in life, but this is normal, AAPOS says. They may not need treatment because they can use their own focusing muscles to provide clear vision for both distant and near vision. Still, some children may need corrective lenses for far-sightedness just as they may need them for myopia (near-sightedness), astigmatism, or anisometropia (having a different prescription in each eye).

It is important to note that the only way to determine the amount of far-sightedness a child has, says CompBenefits' Dr. Mary Loshin, is to take them to an eye doctor for a complete examination.

CompBenefits' Dr. Howard Braverman, a past president of the American Optometric Association, offers these rules of thumb for determining the right time to have children's eyes examined to make sure they don't miss the details of life:
  • The first eye health examination for children should be at age six months with the second at three years, unless indicated sooner.

  • Children should also be examined prior to entering school. "Parents have realized that, if their children can't see, they can't learn," Dr. Braverman says.
Because of the correlation between learning and eyesight, public policy is changing in some areas of the country to ensure that children come prepared to learn - and with glasses, if necessary. For example, "the state of Kentucky has passed legislation requiring a child to have a Comprehensive Eye Health examination (not a screening) along with his other medical physical and shots prior to entering public school," Dr. Braverman explains.


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