With back-to-school time approaching, parents will be scrambling to buy new supplies and clothes for their children. As they check off their list of to-dos, ophthalmologists are reminding parents not to neglect one of the most important learning tools: their children’s eyes.
Good vision and overall eye health are vital to learning. The UCLA Stein Eye and Doheny Eye Institutes join the American Academy of Ophthalmology in emphasizing the importance of healthy vision to academic success during Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month in August.
Because children are still growing, being vigilant about eye health is important. The earlier that problems are identified, the sooner they can be addressed. For healthy eyes and vision throughout the school year, follow these four tips:
- Get regular vision screenings. Children’s eyes change rapidly, making regular vision screenings an important step in detecting and correcting eye problems early. In addition to screenings for infants, further vision screening for children are recommended when they are:
- Pre-school age, between age 3 and 3½
- Entering school
- Experiencing a possible vision problem
For school-age children, a vision screening can be performed by a pediatrician, family physician, nurse or trained technician during regular checkups. If the screening detects a problem, the child may need to see an ophthalmologist — which is an eye physician and a surgeon — or another eye care professional
- Know and share family eye health history. Everyone should find out whether eye conditions or diseases are common in their family. Parents should share that information with the person performing the screening when possible. Some examples of common eye conditions include nearsightedness, strabismus (crossed eyes) and amblyopia (lazy eye). If these are not treated in childhood, they can cause permanent vision loss in one eye.
- Watch for signs of eye problems. Parents should be alert to symptoms that could indicate an eye or vision problem, such as complaints of eyestrain, headaches and squinting when reading or performing other common activities. Other symptoms to look for include a white or grayish-white coloring in the pupil, one eye that turns in or out or eyes that do not track in sync together.
- Wear protective eyewear when playing sports. Eye injuries while playing sports can cause serious damage, whether by getting smacked with an elbow during basketball or hit with a hockey stick. If your child plays racket sports, hockey, field hockey, baseball or basketball, consider having them wear goggles or other certified protective eyewear.
To find an ophthalmologist for your child, visit uclahealth.org/eye
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