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Back-To-School: Why [Eye_Exams] Are More Important Than Ever

Since the onset of COVID-19, many children have been learning remotely through distance learning programs. While parents are concerned about their children falling behind academically, eye doctors are concerned that undiagnosed vision problems may impact the child’s school performance.

Undetected vision problems may hinder a child’s ability to learn. That’s why eye doctors strongly recommend that children undergo a thorough eye exam before the new school year begins.

While it’s tempting to rely on vision screenings provided by schools, these superficial visual acuity tests can identify only a limited number of eyesight problems. Only a comprehensive eye exam conducted by an eye doctor can accurately diagnose and address a wide range of problems related to vision and eye health.

Why Are Eye Exams Important?

Up to 80% of children’s learning is visual, so even the slightest vision problem can have a negative impact on their academic achievement. Taking a child in for an eye exam once a year will allow your eye doctor to detect and correct refractive errors like myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism, and check their visual skills, such as convergence insufficiency, binocular vision, focusing and more.

Comprehensive eye exams are the best way to detect mild and serious eye health conditions. Routine eye exams are especially important for children with a family history of eye health problems.

How Is Vision Affected By Online Learning?

The amount of time children spend looking at digital screens was already a concern in the pre-pandemic era—but the COVID pandemic has only exacerbated the issue. According to the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology, children spent twice as much time on screens during COVID-related closures than they did prior to the pandemic.

For one thing, spending prolonged periods of time on digital devices forces the eyes to work harder, making children (and adults) more susceptible to digital eye strain, one of the hallmark symptoms of computer vision syndrome. People who spend 2 or more consecutive hours staring at a screen are at higher risk of developing this condition.

Some computer vision syndrome symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Eye fatigue
  • Eye pain
  • Headaches
  • Neck and shoulder pain

These symptoms can be caused by a combination of the following factors:

  • Glare and reflections from the screen
  • Excessive time looking at a screen
  • Poor lighting
  • Poor posture
  • Screen brightness
  • Undetected vision problems

In addition to digital eye strain, several studies have found that children who spend many hours indoors doing “near work” — writing, reading and looking at computers and other digital devices — have a higher rate of myopia progression.

A study published in the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s professional journal, Ophthalmology, found that first-graders who spent at least 11 hours per week playing outside in the sunshine experienced slower myopia progression. Some researchers think that exposure to sunlight and looking at distant objects while playing outdoors might help decrease myopia progression.

While regular eye exams are essential for every member of the family, they’re especially important for those who spend a good portion of their day in front of a screen.

Don’t put off your child’s annual eye exam. Schedule an appointment with Northwood Vision in Clearwater today!

Q&A

1. At what age should a child have an eye exam?

According to the American and Canadian Optometric Associations, it’s recommended for a child to have their first eye exam between 6-12 months of age.

Before a child starts school, they should undergo an eye exam, and every one to two years after that, based on their eye doctor‘s recommendation.

2. Does my child need an eye exam if they passed the school vision screening?

Yes! School vision screenings are superficial eye evaluations designed to diagnose a limited number of vision problems like myopia. They do not check for visual skills and other problems that may hinder your child’s academic success.

Your eye doctor will evaluate your child’s vision and eye health, along with visual abilities, including depth perception and eye tracking, to let you know whether your child’s eyes are “school-ready.”

Childhood Myopia Is in Crisis Mode on a Global Scale

When it comes to the prevalence of myopia (nearsightedness), the statistics are staggering. By 2050, nearly half of the world’s population—about 5 billion people—will be myopic. Below are a few useful tips to help you prevent your child from being part of that statistic.

What Is Myopia?

Myopia occurs when the eye elongates, causing light rays to focus in front of the light-sensitive retina rather than directly on it, while looking at something far away. So, people with nearsightedness perceive distant objects as blurred while close-up objects can remain clear.

Myopia tends to develop during childhood, when the eyeballs rapidly grow (along with the rest of the body), mainly between the ages of 8-18. It can worsen slowly or quickly, but it is not simply an inconvenience. People with progressive myopia are more likely to develop serious eye diseases like cataracts, retinal detachment, macular degeneration and glaucoma later in life—conditions which may lead to permanent loss of vision and even blindness.

How To Know Whether Your Child Is Myopic

Below are some telltale signs to watch for:

  • Blurred distance vision – Objects in the distance are blurred; kids may complain that they can’t see the board
  • Headaches – When myopia isn’t corrected, it can cause eye strain and headaches.
  • Head tilting or squinting – If your child squints or tilts his or her head while watching TV, for example, it may be a symptom of myopia.
  • Looking at objects too closely – If you notice your child moving closer to the TV or squinting as they try to see the writing on the board, it may indicate myopia.

What Parents Can Do to Slow Their Child’s Myopia Progression

  • Encourage your child to go outdoors for at least 90 minutes a day, preferably in the sunshine. Studies show that playing outdoors reduces the risk of developing myopia and slows its progression.
  • Limit the amount of time your child spends staring at a screen, reading and doing close work such as homework.
  • When your child uses a digital screen, make sure that it isn’t too close to the face.
  • Teach the 20-20-20 rule: During screen time, take a break every 20 minutes to look at an object across the room or out the window about 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.
Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Christopher Keats

Q: How is myopia diagnosed?

  • A: Your child’s eye doctor will perform a thorough pediatric eye exam to diagnose myopia, which often includes a visual acuity test, where the eye doctor will use an eye chart made up of letters of varied sizes. If the test results indicate myopia, then the optometrist may shine a light into their eyes and evaluate the reflection off the retina to determine the degree of refractive error for their prescription.

Q: Can myopia lead to blindness?

  • A: High myopia may increase your child’s risk of developing more serious eye conditions later in life, such as cataracts, retinal detachment and glaucoma. Left untreated, high myopia complications can sometimes lead to blindness—which is why routine eye exams are critical.

Quality Frames For Prescription Eyeglasses & Computer Glasses In Clearwater, Florida. Visit Northwood Vision for an eye exam and eyeglasses that match your style.

Are Contact Lenses Safe For Young Children?

Here’s a question we often get at our practice: ‘Is my child too young for contact lenses?’ This is an important question, and the answer may surprise you.

For children with myopia (nearsightedness), contact lenses can be a convenient method of vision correction. It allows kids to go about their day without having to worry about breaking or misplacing their glasses, and enables them to freely participate in sports and other physical activities.

Some children and young teens may ask their parents for contact lenses because they feel self-conscious wearing glasses. Contact lenses may even provide children with the confidence boost they need to come out of their shell. Moreover, these days, it is very popular for children to wear single-use one-day disposable soft contacts, since there is no cleaning or maintenance involved.

Some parents may deny their child’s request for contacts due to concerns about eye health and safety. There’s no reason to worry: contact lenses are just as safe for children as they are for anyone else.

At Northwood Vision, we provide children, teens, and patients of all ages with a wide variety of contact lenses. If you’re concerned about the safety of contacts for your child, we’ll be happy to explain and explore ways to ensure maximum safety, optimal eye health and comfort. To learn more or to schedule a pediatric eye exam for contact lenses, contact us today.

What Are the Risks of Having My Child Wear Contact Lenses?

A study published in the January 2021 issue of The Journal of Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics found that kids aren’t at a higher risk of experiencing contact lens complications.

The study followed nearly 1000 children aged 8-16 over the course of 1.5-3 years to determine how contact lenses affected their eye health.

The results indicate that age doesn’t have an effect on contact lens safety. In fact, the researchers found that the risk of developing infections or other adverse reactions was less than 1% per year of wear — which is comparable to contact lens wearers of other ages.

But before you decide that contact lenses are right for your child, you may want to consider whether your child is ready to wear them. During his or her eye doctor’s appointment, the optometrist may ask about your child’s level of maturity, responsibility, and personal hygiene. Since many children are highly motivated to wear contacts, they tend to display real maturity in caring for their lenses. That said, in the initial stages, parents may need to play an active role, as their child gets used to inserting and removing the new contact lenses.

It’s important to note that just as with any other medical device, contact lenses are not risk-free. Anyone who wears contact lenses has a chance of developing eye infections or other complications with contact lenses. However, when worn and cared for according to your eye doctor’s instructions, contact lenses are low-risk and perfectly safe for children and teenagers.

So, go ahead and bring your child in for a contact lens consultation! We’ll help determine if your child is ready for contacts and answer any questions you or your child may have. To schedule your child’s contact lens fitting or eye exam, contact Northwood Vision in Clearwater today.

Is School Work Causing Computer Vision Syndrome in Your Child?

Eye health tips for students from our Clearwater eye doctor

The start of fall means back-to-school for kids of all ages – and our team at Northwood Vision wishes everyone a smooth and successful return to the classroom!

When your child enters school after a summer of outdoor fun, many of the summer’s vision hazards are left behind. Yet, that doesn’t mean all eye health risks are eliminated! Nowadays, the majority of learning is computer based – exposing students’ eyes to the pain and dangers of blue light and computer vision syndrome. Fortunately, a variety of helpful devices and smartphone apps are available to block blue light and keep your child’s vision safe and comfortable.

To help you safeguard your child’s vision for the upcoming semesters and the long term of life, our Clearwater optometrist explains all about computer vision syndrome and how to prevent it.

Symptoms of computer vision syndrome

It’s smart to familiarize yourself with the signs of computer vision syndrome. If your child complains about any of these common symptoms, you can help prevent any lasting vision damage by booking an eye exam with our Clearwater eye doctor near you:

  • Eye irritation and redness
  • Neck, shoulder and back pain
  • Blurry vision
  • Dry eyes, due to reduced blinking
  • Headaches

Basics of blue light

Students spend endless hours in front of digital screens, be it a computer monitor, tablet, or smartphone. There is homework to be done, research to be conducted, texting with friends, and movies and gaming during downtime. All of this screen time exposes your child’s eyes to blue light.

Many research studies have demonstrated that flickering blue light – the shortest, highest-energy wavelength of visible light – can lead to tired eyes, headaches, and blurry vision. Additionally, blue light can disrupt the sleep/wake cycle, causing sleep deprivation and all the physical and mental health problems associated with it. As for your child’s future eye health, blue light may also be linked to the later development of macular degeneration and retinal damage.

How to avoid computer vision syndrome

Our Clearwater eye doctor shares the following ways to block blue light and protect against computer vision syndrome:

  • Computer glasses, eyeglasses lenses treated with a blue-light blocking coating, and contact lenses with built-in blue light protection are all effective ways to optimize visual comfort when working in front of a screen. These optics reduce eye strain and prevent hazardous blue-light radiation from entering the eyes.
  • Practice the 20-20-20 rule; pause every 20 minutes to gaze at an object that’s 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This simple behavior gives eyes a chance to rest from the intensity of the computer or smartphone screen, preventing eye fatigue.
  • Prescription glasses can be helpful when using a computer for long periods – even for students who don’t generally need prescription eyewear. A weak prescription can take the stress off of your child’s eyes, decreasing fatigue and increasing their ability to concentrate. Our Clearwater optometrist will perform a personalized eye exam to determine the most suitable prescription.
  • Moisturize vision with eye drops. One of the most common symptoms of computer vision syndrome is dry eyes, namely because people forget to blink frequently enough. Equip your child with a bottle of preservative-free artificial tears eye drops (available over the counter) and remind them to blink!
  • Blue light filters can be installed on a computer, smartphone, and all digital screens to minimize exposure to blue. A range of helpful free apps are also available for download.
  • Limit screen time for your child each day, or encourage breaks at least once an hour. Typically, the degree of discomfort from computer vision syndrome is in direct proportion with the amount of time your child spends viewing digital screens.
  • Set the proper screen distance. Younger children (elementary school) should view their computer at a half-arm’s length away from their eyes, just below eye level. Kids in middle school and high school should sit about 20 – 28 inches from the screen, with the top of the screen at eye level.

For additional info, book a consultation and eye exam at Northwood Vision

When you and your child meet with our Clearwater eye doctor, we’ll ask questions about your child’s school and study habits to provide customized recommendations on the most effective ways to stay safe from computer vision syndrome and blue light. Our optometrist stays up-to-date with the latest optic technologies and methods to prevent painful vision and eye health damage from using a computer, so you can depend on us for contemporary, progressive treatment.