Optometrists play a vital role in the health of you and your family. They are your first line of defense when it comes to assessing any issues with vision as well as diagnosing and treating an array of medical issues relating to your ocular health. They are not only critical to correcting your vision but also helping to manage your overall well-being. This applies to your children as much as it does to you.
When should children have their first Pediatric Eye Exam?
Many parents are unsure as to when screenings of their children’s vision and ocular health should commence. You may find yourself wondering if an eye examination is something your child truly needs or if it is something that can wait until they express some level of discomfort. The reality is that not all issues relating to vision and health of the eyes have symptoms. That is why routine eye examination is recommended for people of all ages. Your child may not even be aware that they are having issues with their eyesight because they have only seen the world through their eyes; they do not have anything else to compare it to. They may be unaware that their vision is not what it should be. For this reason, it is recommended by eye care specialists that children 6 months of age complete their first eye examination and continue to have them annually until the age of 19. In Ontario eye examinations are covered under OHIP until your child turns 20 years of age. This makes seeing an optometrist more accessible for all Ontario children and enables earlier diagnosis and treatment if necessary.
Why is it important to have regular Eye Exams?
It is important to be aware that issues with vision are more effectively dealt with and modified at an earlier age. It is much easier to treat and correct issues with vision while your child is still growing and developing. By the time children are school aged the development of their vision system has most likely been completed. This means that if there are issues that require correction, the chance of successfully doing so it reduced. For this reason, it is crucial to start your child’s screenings at a young age and keep them regular. It goes without saying that your child’s ability to see clearly directly impacts their ability to focus, to learn and to retain information throughout their education. It is reported that 80% of learning is visual. It quite literally impacts the way they see the world around them. By ensuring that your child can see clearly you are ensuring they can reach their full potential in school and in life.
There are also certain signs and symptoms that may make it more obvious that your child is having difficulty seeing and if you notice them you should schedule an eye examination with your optometrist. If you notice your child squinting more than usual, rubbing their eyes more frequently, covering one of their eyes to see properly, expressing frustration during reading or school work, or if they are complaining about feelings of nausea or dizziness you should see an optometrist as soon as possible.
Common Binocular and accommodative disorders in Children
Convergence insufficiency (CI) is the inability of the two eyes to come together comfortably for a sustained period of time. It is often the result of an outwards posture of the two eyes known as Exophoria. Children with convergence insufficiency often suffer from eye strain, fatigue and headache when reading. Other common symptoms include inability to follow text, skipping lines and re-reading words. If you believe your child might be suffering from convergence insufficiency call our office today to book an appointment with our pediatric trained optometrist for a comprehensive binocular vision assessment and consult.
Convergence insufficiency (CI) Survey developed by the CITT (Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial) study is one common method to quantify the symptoms of potential CI patients. Subjects are presented with the following questions and are asked to answer on a five level scale from ‘Never’ to ‘always’ based on how their eyes feel when reading or doing close work. ‘Never’ gets assigned a zero and ‘always’ gets assigned a 5, then total number is tallied. Patients who score 25 or higher on the following questions are considered to have clinically significant symptoms.
- Do your eyes feel tired when reading or doing close work?
- Do your eyes feel uncomfortable when reading or doing close work?
- Do you have headaches when reading or doing close work?
- Do you feel sleepy when reading or doing close work?
- Do you lose concentration when reading or doing close work?
- Do you have trouble remembering what you have read?
- Do you have double vision when reading or doing close work?
- Do you see the words move, jump, swim or appear to float on the page when reading or doing close work?
- Do you feel like you read slowly?
- Do your eyes ever hurt when reading or doing close work?
- Do your eyes ever feel sore when reading or doing close work?
- Do you feel a “pulling” feeling around your eyes when reading or doing close work?
- Do you notice the words blurring or coming in and out of focus when reading or doing close work?
- Do you lose your place while reading or doing close work?
- Do you have to re-read the same line of words when reading?
Accommodative insufficiency (AI) is the reduced ability of the crystalline lens to focus at near objects. Most clinically significant cases results in a host of near symptoms including blur, fatigue while reading, skipping lines, letter reversals and headaches. AI is most commonly diagnosed in children in grade school. Treatment options include bifocal lenses, reading glasses and vision therapy.
Amblyopia (Lazy eye)
Amblyopia is defined as reduced best-corrected visual acuity in one or both eyes, although most cases affect only one eye. It is a vision development disorder where vision is less than 20/20 even with corrective lenses. It is usually caused by what is referred to as an amblyogenic refractive error or strabismus (eye turn). Many patients with amblyopia can be treated with patching or atropine therapy, and vision training.
Strabismus (Eye turn)
Strabismus is the inward or outward turning of one or both eyes. The inward turning of an eye towards the nose is called Esotropia. The outward turning of the eye towards the ear is called Exotropia. Most strabismus cases are involving one eye but it can also be alternating between the two eyes. It is also classified into intermittent and constant. Mild intermittent cases can sometimes be corrected with vision therapy. However, most large angles of deviation require surgical correction to align the eyes. Strabismus can also cause amblyopia depending on the severity, time of onset, frequency and other factors.
Vision therapy is a structured customized training program used to improve the coordination and focusing of the eyes. Vision Therapy is commonly classified as Home-based (usually using software tools) or Office-based. It is a non-surgical alterative treatment to many binocular and accommodative disorders.
If you are looking to book a pediatric eye examination for your child, 360 Eyecare is a full scope optometric practice in Toronto headed by Dr. Sam Baraam. He has extensive background in pediatric eye examination and management and would be thrilled at the opportunity to care for your child’s eyes. It is highly beneficial to find an optometrist with a background in pediatric eyecare and Dr. Baraam is well trained and highly experienced in pediatric binocular vision as well as vision therapy for children. He completed his training at The Eye Institute in Philadelphia where he earned advanced certification and finished with clinical Honours. Comprehensive eye care by an eye doctor with the knowledge base and experience to care for your child’s eyes will make all the difference.