Local MDs urge parents to add eye exams to “back-to-school” checklist
By Cheryl L. Dejewski
Parents do everything they can to give their children the best possible start for school, including providing the right supplies, nutrition and encouragement. But are they forgetting to focus on another key factor to a child’s educational and social development?
A look at the statistics
“It is estimated that 80 percent of learning happens visually for most children. Unfortunately, though, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, one in 20 preschoolers and five in 20 school-aged children have an eye problem,” says Mark Freedman, MD, senior partner at Eye Care Specialists ophthalmology practice. Freedman delivers more alarming news, “Some of these problems could lead to permanent vision loss if left untreated, yet nearly 80 percent of preschoolers aren’t screened. And, for older children, annual physicals and school screenings may catch the need for glasses, but they aren’t usually equipped to detect vision-threatening problems of the retina, optic nerve and eye muscles.”
When to have an
Dr. Brett Rhode, Head of Ophthalmology at Aurora Sinai Medical Center, recommends, “All children should have a professional eye exam before age five and then periodically throughout their school years to detect and treat such problems as amblyopia and strabismus (“lazy” and “crossed” eyes), near- and farsightedness (difficulty seeing far away or up close), ptosis (drooping of the upper lid that blocks vision), and congenital or inherited disorders (like cataracts or glaucoma).”
Early detection can be crucial. For example, amblyopia is a serious disorder in which the brain “shuts off” images from a weaker or misaligned eye. The problem is often corrected by temporarily patching the stronger eye. If not treated by age 8 or 9, however, the condition can become permanent.
Besides scheduling regular exams, you should also have your child checked if they frequently squint, rub their eyes, cross one or both eyes, tilt their head, hold books too close, or experience pain, flashes of light, spots, distorted lines, excessive tearing, dry eyes, itching or burning.
Dr. Michael Raciti, an eye care specialist who sees patients of all ages at offices in Milwaukee, Wauwatosa and West Allis, reminds parents that, “If your child is diagnosed as needing glasses, remember to be sensitive to his or her feelings. This can be a traumatic experience. Peer pressure, your child’s age, and your approach will affect his or her attitude toward wearing glasses. Depending on your budget and your child’s prescription and maturity level for following safe cleaning and wearing instructions, contact lenses may be an option.”
Proper Vision Care = Eye Exams + Safety Precautions.