School year in sight: Does your child need an eye exam?- Dean - WI

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Published on August 23, 2017

School year in sight: Does your child need an eye exam?

You’ve purchased school supplies, updated vaccines and even started adjusting your child’s routine to better prepare for the school year schedule. You’re ready for school to start, right? Maybe not. SSM Health pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Katherine Hare says you may need to add a comprehensive eye exam to your back-to-school to-do list.

If your child has yet to see an eye doctor, you’re not alone. A recent survey by VSP Vision Care and You.gov discovered one in five parents didn’t take their child to an eye doctor until age 5. One in ten parents surveyed have never taken their kids to the eye doctor.

Many of the surveyed parents stated they believe primary care or in-school eye screenings are adequate. What most parents don’t realize is that in-school screenings can miss up to 80 percent of vision problems.

“Vision screenings often involve just checking distance vision,” says Dr. Hare. “These screenings, while helpful, can also miss issues like crossing or turning of the eyes, ‘lazy eye,’ glaucoma and other potentially serious eye conditions. A complete dilated eye exam gives much more information and includes a thorough eye health and eye movement exam.”

The American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS) recommends routine vision screening start at or before 3 years of age, then again at age 5. For healthy kids, additional exams throughout childhood should be discussed and planned with your doctor.

Dr. Hare notes the need for annual comprehensive eye exams can depend on your child and your family’s history. If you have a family history of childhood eye issues, your child should start receiving comprehensive eye exams before or by age 2. If your child does not receive routine vision screenings due to developmental issues or unwillingness to cooperate in a screening, you should schedule a comprehensive exam by age 3.

“If your child develops symptoms of poor vision, misalignment of eyes, fails a screening or you notice any other eye or vision concern, bring them in for an exam with an eye care specialist,” says Dr. Hare.

Finding a problem – and treating it – early is important and can help prevent lasting vision issues.

“Some vision issues can only be fixed when a child is young, while the visual system is still developing,” Dr. Hare explains.

Dr. Hare also says parents can schedule an exam with a pediatric ophthalmologist at any age without a referral, even if you’re just looking for peace of mind.

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