Parents encouraged to watch for warning signs as kids spend more time indoors viewing things up close.
PORTLAND, Ore. – As shorter days and impending winter weather send more children indoors to do homework, play on the computer and watch television, the Oregon Optometric Physicians Association encourages parents to watch for easy-to-spot warning signs that may indicate their child has a vision problem.
“At this time of year, more children are inside doing activities that can cause eye strain. There are some obvious signs to watch for that can indicate your child is having trouble seeing,” said Allison Summers, optometric physician. “If these problems go undetected, your child’s learning may be inhibited, behavior may be affected, and he or she could even be incorrectly labeled with a learning disorder.”
Summers says parents should be on the lookout for the following warning signs of vision trouble:
Spotting and correcting eyesight problems in kids is important because vision may affect much more than just the ability to see clearly. Studies have found that approximately 80 percent of all learning during a child’s first 12 years is obtained through the eyes. Surprisingly, studies also indicate behavior can be negatively affected. For example, more than 70 percent of juvenile offenders had undiagnosed vision problems. Correcting vision problems can help children who might otherwise struggle with learning or behavioral issues.
Amblyopia affects about 5 percent of children nationwide. The condition is completely treatable and preventable if detected within the first few years of life yet it remains as the leading cause of blindness in Americans under 40.
Despite the effectiveness of detecting vision problems early, the Vision Council of America reports 86 percent of children 12 and under have never had an eye exam. Many schools are now offering a basic vision screening during registration, but the Oregon Optometric Physicians Association recommends taking that a step further and bringing children in for a more comprehensive eye exam where they can be treated immediately if there is a problem.
“When a parent brings their child in for an appointment, the family optometric physician will use kid- friendly tools and techniques to conduct the eye exam,” said Dr. Summers. “The eye charts have pictures instead of letters. And other tests are based primarily on the doctor’s observations, so these visits often seem more like playing games to the children.”
For parents who cannot afford to take their child in for an eye exam, scholarships are available through the Oregon Foundation for Vision Awareness, a non-profit organization that helps disadvantaged children receive essential eye care. The OFVA can be reached at 800-922-2045 or at www.oregonoptometry.org.
“If vision problems are detected during this time of year when the warning signs are easy to spot, it can make all the difference in a child’s life,” adds Dr. Summers.
About the Oregon Optometric Physicians Association
The Oregon Optometric Physicians Association is a statewide organization comprised of Doctors of Optometry, college of optometry faculty, optometric students and industry-related associates. It advocates advancing the quality, availability and accessibility of eye, vision and related health care. It also works to represent the profession of optometry, to enhance and promote the independent and ethical decision making of its members, and to assist optometric physicians in practicing the highest standards of patient care. Based in Milwaukie, Oregon, the OOPA has 380 members. For more information, visit www.oregonoptometry.org.