Our Eye Doctors Answer Patient Questions about Children’s Eye Care
Q. When is a good time for my child to have his/her eyes examined?
A. The American Optometric Association recommends that every child has an eye exam at 6 months old, 3 years old, before starting first grade, and every two years thereafter. At the 6 months old eye exam, your child’s eye doctor will use objective methods to look for any major conditions that need to be addressed. These include: abnormal eye alignment or eye turns, significant differences between the two eyes, and ocular abnormalities. If your child has any major conditions it is important to have them addressed as early as possible. Before starting school it is important to have your child’s eyes examined again to ensure that his/her vision is adequate to allow for best possible learning.
Q. What is a “lazy eye”?
A. The term “lazy eye” is often used to refer to a condition more formally known as amblyopia. Amblyopia is a condition where a person has one eye with weaker vision than the other because it was deprived from the ability to develop normal vision. This most commonly occurs when the prescription needed in one eye is significantly different than the other or when one eye turns out or in. Often times having an eye exam before the age of 6 can help to avoid or adequately treat amblyopia in order to allow a person to develop the best possibly vision in each eye.
Q. My child is spending a lot of time looking at tablet, I’m concerned.
A. What options are available to help control the progression of myopia (nearsightedness)?
There are a few options available to help in slowing the progression of myopia. Studies have shown that the most successful options are:
– Bifocal glasses
– Bifocal contact lenses
– Orthokeratology (corneal reshaping therapy)
– Atropine eye drops
– Increasing time spent outdoors
Q. Is computer and screen time bad for my child?
A. This generation of children is spending more and more time on screens and computers. Though this has some benefits related to school and learning, it can also cause some eye troubles. Excessive computer and screen time can cause Computer Vision Syndrome and can possibly contribute to the development and progression of nearsightedness (myopia). Many studies are being conducted to determine the impact this will have on children. In the meantime, it is important to both limit the amount of time children spend on screens, and also to ensure this screen time is being conducted in a healthy way. Some tips:
– monitor the amount of time your child spends on screens
– ensure that your child is taking breaks
– ensure that your child is maintaining proper posture
– ensure the screen device is at least 16-20 inches away from your child’s face
Q. If I am colorblind will my child also be colorblind?
A. There are a number of types of colorblindness but the most common is red-green colorblindness. This type of colorblindness is hereditary and can possibly be passed from parent to child. The gene for red-green colorblindness is recessive and is found on chromosome 23 which is also the chromosome that determines sex. For this reason, a red-green colorblind father can pass the gene on to his daughter but not to his son. A colorblind mother can pass the gene on to both her son and daughter. In order for a female child to be red-green colorblind she must receive the gene from both mother and father; if she only receives the gene from one parent she will be a carrier. For a male child, he only needs to receive the gene from his mother. That is why red-green colorblindness is more common in males.
To make it more simple, colorblindness gene skips a generation. If you are a male and you have colorblindness, your son will not be colorblind; your daughter will be a carrier and your daughter’s son will be colorblind.
Q. How much Television should my child watch each day?
A. We know that excessive near work on computers, tablets, phones or books could lead to nearsightedness (myopia), but what about watching television? Scientific studies have not proven that there is a direct link between television time and myopia. However, excessive television time could limit your child’s ability to actively engage and participate in meaningful interactions which are important for your child’s brain development.
The American Academy of Pediatric ‘s new guidelines, released in October 2016, allow for some screen time for children younger than 2 and emphasize parental involvement for all kids. In a nutshell:
Avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting for children younger than 18 months.
If you choose to introduce media to children 18-24 months, find high-quality programming and co-view and co-play.
Limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs for children age 2 to 5 years.
To keep your child’s brain from going on autopilot as he watches, break up viewing into 10- to 15-minute increments. Keep screens out of the bedroom and turned off during meal times.
Q. What should I do if my baby’s eye turns in/out?
A. Newborn babies will often have some moments when one of their eyes wanders or their eyes appear to cross. In the first few weeks after birth this is normal. By 3 months of age the baby should be able to keep both eyes straight when looking at an object. If you notice that your newborn baby’s eye is always turned in or out, or your baby is older than 3 months and still having some moments of eye turns, you should have his eyes evaluated by an eye doctor.
Q. What is eye tracking?
A. Eye tracking is the ability to accurately keep the eyes on target when looking from object to object or when following a moving object. Though we may not realize it, we are constantly using eye tracking in our daily activities. Precise eye tracking is especially important when reading. In order to smoothly and efficiently read text our eyes must be able to accurately track while moving the eyes from word to word. If a person or a child is unable to accurately and smoothly track, they could have trouble with reading and reading comprehension. Fortunately, it is possible to improve a person’s eye tracking through various eye exercises and activities.
Q. What is Vision Therapy?
A. Vision Therapy is a type of physical therapy for the eyes and brain. In order for the eyes to function at their best, they must be able to smoothly and effortlessly complete a number of tasks including eye tracking, eye teaming, accommodation, and focusing. This does not come easy for everyone. There are many children and adults who have trouble with these tasks, oftentimes without realizing it. A binocular vision evaluation consists of a number of tests to measure the eyes’ ability to focus, converge, diverge and work together. If such an evaluation reveals that there is weakness in one or more areas, vision therapy can be considered. Through a series of activities and eye exercises vision therapy can help to improve the way the eyes function. Vision therapy can help with conditions such as lazy eye, crossed eyes, eye teaming issues, and other learning and reading disabilities. Dyslexia
Q. When is a good time for my child to wear contact lenses?
A. Contact lenses are a good option for vision correction, as an alternative to glasses. Because contact lenses are worn directly on the eye, they are a medical device and must be properly used to avoid complications. For this reason, it is important for anyone who wears contacts to be responsible enough to properly care for them. For children, this means they must be able to keep their hands clean, keep their nails cut, and to always wash their hands before touching their eyes or the contact lenses. They must also be responsible enough to remove lenses at night and to replace them as instructed. Every child is different, but contact lenses can be prescribed as soon as it is believed that they can properly care for contact lenses. In some cases, contact lenses are actually better for a child’s visual potential. If that is the case, we encourage the child to start wearing contact lenses as early as possible.
Q. What is Dyslexia
A. Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia can refer to a number of symptoms related to reading and language. The cause of dyslexia is not exactly understood, but it has to do with the way the brain develops and functions. Although dyslexia is not a problem with the eyes, sometimes it can be mis-identified as dyslexia when in reality there are vision problems at play. Other times a person might have dyslexia but also have vision issues that are making it even harder for the person to excel at reading and language-based tasks. Either way, it is always a good idea to have the eyes checked in order to eliminate any vision or eye conditions that could be contributing to difficulty with reading.
Q. How is dyslexia diagnosed?
A. Dyslexia is formally diagnosed by a licensed educational psychologist. It can also be diagnosed by a neurologist. Often times it is informally diagnosed by others. There is not a definitive test for dyslexia. It is usually evaluated by assessing the general patterns of reading and language. During such an assessment, it is also necessary to rule out other possible contributing conditions such as vision or hearing issues. It is important to not only check if glasses are needed, but also to check eye teaming, focusing and other reading and learning related skills.
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