Keeping an Eye Out for the Kids

Childrens Eye Health and Safety Month is recognized in September

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) With all the changes a child faces in the fall, like new classes, new schools and new activities, sometimes changes in vision can be brought to the surface as well.

These changes are often noticed when a child returns home from the first day of school only to complain that they can't see the chalkboard clearly from their seat at the back of class.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), which recognizes September as Children’s Eye Health & Safety Month, is reminding parents to take care of their children's eye health as the back-to-school season begins.

"Maintain regular eye examinations for both children and adults. "

In a press statement, the AAO stressed to parents "...the importance of maintaining healthy vision in helping children achieve educational success." 

If a child has unidentified issues clearly seeing a chalkboard or reading a book, what begins as a vision problem may eventually become a problem keeping up in school. And what's more, early eye issues can be important indicators of later eye health.

"The vision system is not fully formed in babies and young children, therefore early detection of treatable eye disease in infancy and childhood can have far-reaching implications for vision and, in some cases, for general health," explained the AAO. "In fact, if left untreated in children, certain eye conditions may develop in ways that cannot be corrected later in life; some cases could even lead to permanent vision loss."

To prevent delayed diagnosis of childhood vision issues, the AAO recommends a number of steps, including keeping an eye out for symptoms of vision problems. These symptoms can range widely, but may include sensitivity to light, pus or crust, eye pain, drooping eyelids or eyes that appear crossed. 

Parents can also take a step to protect their children by being informed of family history of childhood eye problems. This knowledge can help families stay alert for signs of the eye issues for which they might have a bigger risk. 

Another important step to consider as the fall sports season — not just the fall school season — starts: protective eyewear. 

"Eye injuries are a leading cause of blindness in children in the United States and can increase a person's risk of developing eye disease later in life. One-third of sports-related eye injuries involve children," the AAO reported. 

The academy recommended that children wear protective eye wear when participating in the sports with the highest rates of eye injuries — including racket sports, hockey, field hockey, baseball and basketball. 

The AAO also stressed regular and early vision screenings. 

In an interview with dailyRx News, Christopher Quinn, OD, FAAO, of Omni Eye Services in the New York Metro area, took a different approach and instead stressed the importance of comprehensive eye exams performed by eye doctors, as opposed to vision screenings performed at a school or family physician's office. 

According to Dr. Quinn, vision screenings have low sensitivity for detecting many types of eye problems, and miss eye problems one-third of the time. Screenings may give the impression that a more comprehensive examination has been performed, and sometimes, people fail to follow up with an eye doctor after they fail a vision screening.

As the new school year starts, "Bring your child in for a comprehensive eye exam," recommended Dr. Quinn. "This will catch any abnormalities in terms of eye health."

Dr. Quinn also noted that, due to upcoming changes related to the Affordable Care Act, starting in 2014, pediatric eye exams will be a covered benefit in medical coverage plans, perhaps making this eye care step a little easier for families to follow.

By keeping an eye out for children's eye health during the back-to-school season, healthy habits can be put into place to protect vision in the long run.

Review Date: 
September 3, 2013
Last Updated:
September 5, 2013