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School and Vision: 2 Important Partners

It’s February and that means we’re smack in the middle of winter, which is also the middle of the school year. It’s the season when kids fervently hope for snow days and parents hope they don’t happen. As we head towards the second half of the school year, you’ve probably attended a few parent-teacher conferences and discussed your child’s education.

Like peanut butter and jelly, school and vision go hand-in-hand. Both are important partners in ensuring that children excel in their learning, extracurricular activities, and relationships with their peers.

ADD/ADHD and Vision Problems

Did you know that certain vision problems can mask themselves as behavioral or learning difficulties? In fact, education experts often say that 80% of learning is visual.

A 3rd grader may be misdiagnosed with ADD or ADHD if they display behaviors like being fidgety, having difficulty focusing or concentrating, or having a short attention span. These symptoms may not always be purely behavioral; they could be vision-related. A child who experiences blurry vision, suffers from headaches or eyestrain, or itches their eyes excessively may, in fact, have a refractive error such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) or astigmatism, or another condition such as convergence insufficiency.

Undiagnosed myopia, for example can cause these same types of behaviors that are commonly attributed to attention disorders. That’s because if your child has to squint his eyes to see the board clearly, eyestrain and headaches are bound to follow. Struggling with reading or writing is common too. Other vision disorders can cause similar behavior patterns. An additional challenge is that kids don’t always express their symptoms verbally, and often they don’t even realize that other people see differently than do.

This can also impact kids emotionally. When they feel like they’re not keeping up with their peers or their learning is inferior in some way, this may lead the child to act out verbally or even physically.

Distinguishing between colors is an important skill for early childhood development. While color vision deficiency affects both children and adults, kids, in particular, can experience difficulty in school with this condition. Simply reading a chalkboard can be an intense struggle when white or yellow chalk is used. When a teacher uses colored markers on a whiteboard to draw a pie chart, graph, or play a game, this can be a difficult experience for a young student with color blindness. A child, his or her parents, and teachers may even be unaware that the child is color blind.

What School Vision Screenings Miss

Many parents believe that an in-school vision screening is good enough. However, an eye chart test only checks for basic visual acuity, so kids with blurry or double vision, for example, may be able to pass a vision screening while still struggling to read, write, or focus on the board. Children who have problems with their binocular vision, which means using both eyes together to focus on something, can pass the screening when they use just one eye to read the chart.

Studies show that a whopping 43% of children who have vision problems can successfully pass a school vision screening. This means that the vision test may fail to detect the more subtle but significant and treatable vision problems. Early detection and diagnosis is critical to maintaining healthy eyes. That’s why it’s so important to make eye care a part of your child’s healthcare routine.

The Importance of Yearly Eye Exams

The #1 way to do this is to schedule annual eye exams. Your eye doctor can perform a comprehensive pediatric eye exam to check visual acuity, visual clarity, binocular vision, and screen for any eye diseases or vision problems.

Because children develop so rapidly at different ages, it’s essential that eye exams are done at specific stages of their young lives. In fact, The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends regular eye exams at age 6 months, 3 years, before school starts, and every 2 years thereafter.

Simply being aware of the tendency to associate a child’s learning issues with a learning disability or attention disorder instead of an underlying vision problem is critical for parents and educators. Both are partners in a child’s education and they must work together to ensure that each child gets the health care and attention he or she needs.

If you notice changes in your child’s schoolwork, behavior with friends or in sports or other after-school activities, it may be time to schedule an eye exam. You’ll want to be sure that your kids have all the tools they need to succeed in school and beyond.

Is Too Much Screen Time Dangerous For Your Kids?

Screen Time Pros and Cons

Whether it is homework, email, gaming, chatting with friends, searching the web or watching Youtube, kids these days seem to have an endless number of reasons to be glued to a screen. Many parents out there are wondering how bad this can be for their kids and whether they should be limiting screen time.

There are certainly benefits to allowing your kids to use digital devices, whether it is educational, social or providing a needed break. However, studies show that excessive screen time can have behavioral consequences such as irritability, moodiness, inability to concentrate, poor behavior, and other issues as well. Too much screen time is also linked to dry eyes and meibomian gland disorders (likely due to a decreased blink rate when using devices), as well as eye strain and irritation, headaches, back or neck and shoulder pain, and sleep disturbances. Some of these computer vision syndrome symptoms are attributed to blue light that is emitted from the screens of digital devices.

Blue light is a short wavelength, high-energy visible light that is emitted by digital screens, LED lights and the sun. Studies suggest that exposure to some waves of blue light over extended periods of time may be harmful to the light-sensitive cells of the retina at the back of the eye. When these cells are damaged, vision loss can occur. Research indicates that extreme blue light exposure could lead to macular degeneration or other serious eye diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness. Studies show that blue light also interferes with the regulation of the the body’s circadian rhythm which can have a disruptive impact on the body’s sleep cycle. Lack of quality sleep can lead to serious health consequences as well.

Beyond these studies, the long term effects of blue light exposure from digital devices are not yet known since this is really the first generation in which people are using digital devices to such an extent. While it may take years to fully understand the impact of excessive screen time on our eyes and overall health, it is probably worth limiting it due to these preliminary findings and the risks it may pose. This is especially true for young children and the elderly, who are particularly susceptible to blue light exposure.

How to Protect the Eyes From Blue Light

The first step in proper eye protection is abstaining from excessive exposure by limiting the amount of time spent using a computer, smart phone or tablet – especially at night, to avoid interfering with sleep. Many pediatricians even recommend zero screen time for children under two.

The next step would be to reduce the amount of blue light entering the eyes by using blue light blocking glasses or coatings that deflect the light away from the eyes. There are also apps and screen filters that you can add to your devices to reduce the amount of blue light being projected from the screen. Speak to your eye doctor about steps you can take to reduce blue light exposure from digital devices.

As a side note, the sun is an even greater source of blue light so it is essential to protect your child’s eyes with UV and blue light blocking sunglasses any time your child goes outside – even on overcast days.

The eyes of children under 18 are particularly susceptible to damage from environmental exposure as they have transparent crystalline lenses that are more susceptible to both UV and blue light rays. While the effects (such as increased risk of age-related macular degeneration) may not be seen for decades later, it’s worth it to do what you can now to prevent future damage and risk for vision loss.

 

Is Your Teen Ready for Contacts?

Many teens who wear glasses are eager to try out contact lenses for convenience, fashion or to just provide another option for vision correction. For teens who feel self-conscious in their glasses, contact lenses can be a way to improve self-esteem. Young athletes and swimmers find that contacts are an excellent option for sports, especially as younger kids are becoming involved in travel sports and club teams outside of school.

While contacts might appear to be the perfect solution for teens that need corrective eyewear, they are a convenience that comes with a lot of responsibility so it’s not a decision to take lightly. Improper use of contact lenses can cause severe discomfort, infections, irritation and, in the worst cases, eye damage or even permanent vision loss.

“With Privilege Comes Responsibility”

Contact lenses are a medical device and should always be treated as such. They should never be obtained without a valid contact lens prescription from an eye doctor, and always purchased from an authorized seller. Among other issues, poor fitting contact lenses bought from illegitimate sources have been known to cause micro-abrasions to the eyes that can increase the risk of eye infection and corneal ulcers in worst case scenarios.

Particularly when it comes to kids and teens, it is best to purchase contact lenses from an eye doctor as they possess the expertise to properly fit contact lenses based on the shape of the eye, the prescription, the lifestyle of the child and other factors that may influence the comfort, health and convenience of contact lens use.

There is some debate over the recommended age for kids to start considering contact lenses. While some experts will say the ideal age is between 11 and 14, there are many responsible children as young as 8 or even younger who have begun to successfully use them. When children are motivated and responsible, and parents are able to ensure follow-up to the daily regimen, earlier contact lens use can be a success. A good measure of whether your child is responsible enough to use contacts is whether they are able to keep their room clean, or maintain basic hygiene like brushing teeth regularly and effectively.

When you think your child might be ready, you should schedule an appointment with your eye doctor for a contact lens exam and fitting. The process will take a few visits to perform the exam, complete a training session on how to insert, remove and care for lenses, then to try out the lenses at home and finally reassess the comfort and fit of the contacts. You may try out a few varieties before you find the best fit.

What Kind of Contact Lens Is Best for My Teen?

The good news is that contact lens use has become easier than ever, with safety, health and convenience being more accessible as technology improves. There are a number of options including the material used to make the lenses (soft or rigid gas permeable), the replacement schedule (if disposable, how often you replace the pair – daily, weekly, biweekly or monthly) and the wear schedule (daily or extended overnight wear).

Single use, daily disposable lenses have become very popular, particularly with younger users, because they are easy to use, requiring no cleaning or storing, and therefore they reduce the risk of infection and misuse. You simply throw out the lenses at night and open a new one in the morning. Your eye doctor will be able to help you and your teen determine the best option.

Tips for Contact Lens Wearers

Following are some basic contact lens safety tips. If your teen is responsible enough to follow these guidelines, he or she may be ready for contact lens use:

  1. Always follow the wearing schedule prescribed by your doctor.
  2. Always wash your hands with soap before applying or removing contact lenses.
  3. Never use any substance other than contact lens rinse or solution to clean contacts (even tap water is a no-no).
  4. Never reuse contact lens solution
  5. Follow the eye doctor’s advice about swimming or showering in your lenses
  6. Always remove your lenses if they are bothering you or causing irritation.
  7. Never sleep in your lenses unless they are extended wear.
  8. Never use any contact lenses that were not acquired with a prescription at an authorized source. Never purchase cosmetic lenses without a prescription!

Contact lens use is an ongoing process. As a child grows, the lens fit may change as well, so it is important to have annual contact lens assessments. Plus, new technology is always being developed to improve comfort and quality of contact lenses.

Contact lenses are a wonderful invention but they must be used with proper care. Before you let your teen take the plunge into contact lens use, make sure you review the dangers and safety guidelines.

10 Tips to Teach Children About Eye Safety

girl in funny glasses

It is important to teach your children about eye health and safety from a young age. This includes awareness about how your overall health habits affect your eyes and vision as well as how to keep your eyes safe from injury and infection. Starting off with good eye habits at a young age will help to create a lifestyle that will promote eye and vision health for a lifetime.

10 Eye Health Tips for All:

  1. Eat right. Eating a balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables (especially green leafies such as kale, spinach and broccoli) as well as omega-3s found in fish, such as salmon, tuna and halibut, help your eyes get the proper nutrients they need to function at their best.
  2. Exercise. An active lifestyle has been shown to reduce the risk of developing a number of eye diseases as well as diabetes – a disease which which can result in blindness.
  3. Don’t Smoke. Smoking has been linked to increased risk of a number of vision threatening eye diseases.
  4. Use Eye Protection. Protect your eyes when engaging in activities such as sports (especially those that are high impact or involve flying objects), using chemicals or power tools or gardening. Speak to your eye doctor about the best protection for your hobbies to prevent serious eye injuries.
  5. Wear Shades. Protect your eyes from the sun by wearing 100% UV blocking sunglasses and a hat with a brim when you go outside. Never look directly at the sun.
  6. Be Aware: If you notice any changes in your vision, always get it checked out. Tell a parent or teacher if your eyes hurt or if your vision is blurry, jumping, double or if you see spots or anything out of the ordinary. Parents, keep an eye on your child. Children don’t always complain about problems seeing because they don’t know when their vision is not normal vision. Signs of excessive linking, rubbing, unusual head tilt, or excessively close viewing distance are worth a visit to the eye doctor.
  7. Don’t Rub! If you feel something in your eye, don’t rub it – it could make it worse or scratch your eyeball. Ask an adult to help you wash the object out of your eye.
  8. Give Your Eyes a Break. With the digital age, a new concern is kids’ posture when looking at screens such as tablets or mobile phones. Prevent your child from holding these digital devices too close to their eyes. The Harmon distance is a comfortable viewing distance and posture – it is the distance from your chin to your elbow. There is concern that poor postural habits may warp a child’s growing body. Also, when looking at a tv, mobile or computer screen for long periods of time, follow the 20-20-20 rule; take a break every 20 minutes, for 20 seconds, by looking at something 20 feet away.
  9. Create Eye Safe Habits. Always carry pointed objects such as scissors, knives or pencils with the sharp end pointing down. Never shoot objects (including toys) or spray things at others, especially in the direction of the head. Be careful when using sprays that they are pointed away from the eyes.
  10. Keep Them Clean. Always wash your hands before you touch your eyes and follow your eye doctors instructions carefully for proper contact lens hygiene. If you wear makeup, make sure to throw away any old makeup and don’t share with others.

By teaching your children basic eye care and safety habits you are instilling in them the importance of taking care of their precious eye sight. As a parent, always encourage and remind your children to follow these tips and set a good example by doing them yourself.

Of course don’t forget the most important tip of all – get each member of your family’s eyes checked regularly by a qualified eye doctor! Remember, school eye screenings and screenings at a pediatrician’s office are NOT eye exams. They are only checking visual acuity but could miss health problems, focusing issues and binocularity issues that are causing health and vision problems.

Protect Children’s Eyes During Sports

The new school year has kicked off and you can tick off purchasing all that back to school equipment. Now, it’s time to think about what your child will need for after school sports and hobby activities.

Making sure they have the right protective eyewear for their sporting or athletic activities should be one of the top priorities on your list. Here’s why: according to new data from Prevent Blindness America, approximately 25,000 people sought treatment for sports-related eye injuries in 2013, and around 10,000 were children under the age of 14.

Wearing protective eyewear when playing sports can help prevent serious eye injuries. Here are some tips on how to go about choosing the most apt protective eyewear for your child:

  1. Consult with your eye doctor and the child’s coach to find out what type of protective eyewear is best for the athletic activity your child is involved in. The kind of eyewear your child will need depends on the sport they are playing.
  2. Know the sports and its dangers: Across all age groups, sports-related eye injuries occur most frequently in water sports, basketball, and baseball or softball. Safety standards are met using shatter-resistant polycarbonate or trivex lenses.
  3. Protect and correct: If your child already wears glasses, find out what options are available for adding their prescription to protective eyewear they will need. Or consider contact lenkidsses.
  4. Ensure sufficient UV protection: If your child’s activity takes place outside, make sure that the protective eyewear you choose includes sufficient protection from harmful UV rays.
  5. Set an example: Wear protective eyewear yourself. This will help to show your child it is possible to protect your vision and enjoy a sporting activity at the same time.

The majority of eye injuries can be prevented. Newer safety eyewear models often have wraparound styles to improve peripheral vision and style appeal. Kids can have fashion and function in today’s safety eyewear. Make sure that your child’s eyes are protected while they strive to reach the top of their game!

Dealing with Your Tween’s and Teen’s Eyesight

frustrated 20nerd

It can be devastating for a tween or teen to be told he or she needs to wear glasses, especially if it is sudden. Many tweens and teenagers are concerned about how glasses will affect their appearance, whether they will be made fun of (which unfortunately is a legitimate concern – kids can be mean!), how they will manage with a new responsibility and what the implications will be for sports and other activities. Many tend to overlook the miracle of clear vision for the perceived negative impact the glasses may have.

If your child would rather suffer with blurred vision, headaches and even trouble with schoolwork than wear glasses, the good news is that there are options that even the “coolest” preteen or teen might find acceptable.

    1. Fashion eyewear: It has never been more fashionable to wear glasses than it is today – just take a look at Hollywood’s red carpet. Encourage your child to seek out a look or a celebrity style they like and have your optician help to find that. The optician and optometrist can recommend what shapes and materials are available for the lens Rx, while your teen can have fun with the color and style. Or just browse around at the plethora of fun styles available for teens these days. “Make it fun and encourage your preteen to be excited about their new purchase. If it is within your budget you may even want to consider purchasing two pairs so he or she can have a choice depending on mood and wardrobe.

 

    1. Consider contacts: If your child feels self conscious or inhibited, particularly in sports, by wearing glasses, look into contact lenses. Contact lenses are a great solution particularly for athletes because they provide safety and a full field of view as opposed to glasses or sports goggles. Before you can take the plunge into contacts you need to consider the following:
        • Is his or her prescription and eye health suitable for contact lenses? There are a number of conditions which prohibit contact lens use or require special lenses. Check with your optometrist to find out what options exist for your teen or tween.

       

        • Is he or she responsible enough to care properly for contact lenses? Improper care of contact lenses can cause irritation, infection and damage to the eyes. Your teen must understand the risks and be responsible enough to follow the optometrists instructions when it comes to use and care. How do you know if your teen or tween is ready for contacts? Look at his or her bedroom. How clean and tidy is it usually? This is a good indicator if he or she is ready to wear contacts on a daily basis

       

      • Does he or she have any preexisting conditions that would make contact lens wear uncomfortable? Individuals that have chronic eye conditions such as dry eyes, allergies or frequent infections may find contact use uncomfortable or irritating.

      If your teen or tween would like to consider contacts, you should schedule a consultation with your eye doctor and try a pair for a few days to see how it goes.

 

  1. Alternative options: In some situations there may be other options such as vision therapy or Ortho-K (where you are prescribed special contacts to wear at night that shape the cornea for clear vision during the day) which could result in improvements in vision. Speak to your optometrist about what alternatives might exist for your teen or tween.

How to Encourage Young Kids to Wear their First Pair of Glasses

boy 20in 20front 20of 20eye 20chart

Your child’s first pair of glasses will make an important difference in his or her ability to see and interact with the surrounding world. However, a new pair of glasses can also present a big adjustment for both parents and kids as you get used to a new look and a new responsibility. For many families this can be a cause of conflict as children may refuse to wear their new specs or be forgetful or careless by losing or breaking them. Parents should also be sensitive to the fact that it could affect a child’s self esteem and unfortunately deal with teasing by peers.

Here are some ideas to pull you through the initial days of your child’s first frames and some tips on how you can help them ease into their new look.

  1. Display an encouraging and positive attitude about your child’s new look. Don’t just talk about how important glasses are for your child, but play up the fact that they now have a new, fun accessory or magic tool to help them have a better “power” of vision (whatever you think will speak to your child). On the other hand if your child picks up that you are disappointed about the new look, it will rub off and they might not be as willing to persevere.
  2. Ensure that your child is rested and in a good mood the first time he or she puts the glasses on.
  3. Let your child wear his or her glasses for short periods while doing an enjoyable activity where wearing glasses will make the biggest difference, for example while watching a favorite television show, or reading a favorite book. The aim here is that your child will be having fun and recognizing the benefits of the new glasses at the same time.
  4. Before you leave the eye doctor’s office, have the optician check that the glasses fit right and have a comfortable style. This means that they don’t slip, pinch or put pressure on your child’s face, are not too loose or too tight. Glasses that don’t fit right won’t feel right and children won’t want to wear them if they aren’t comfortable.
  5. Don’t turn wearing glasses into a battle or constantly nag your child to wear the frames. Help your child understand that being able to see is a gift.
  6. Encourage and praise your child when they do wear their new frames, especially until wearing glasses becomes second nature.
  7. Make glasses part of the daily routine. Make it the first thing your child does in the morning and the last thing to do before going to bed.

 

Remember, it can take time to adjust to wearing glasses, not to mention seeing with a new prescription. Be patient and remember to focus on the gift of eyesight and the enhanced quality of life your child will have in the long run.

Books for Kids

Here are some books you can read with your kids about wearing glasses:

The Princess Who Wore Glasses by Laura Hertzfeld Katz

Arlo Needs Glasses by Barney Saltzberg

Luna and the Big Blur: A Story for Children Who Wear Glasses by Shirley Day

Fancy Nancy: Spectacular Spectacles (I Can Read Book 1) by Jane O’Connor

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