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I can see clearly now: Vision care for kids

By The Health News Team | August 10, 2023
Child with doctor for eye test

Your child’s vision has a tremendous impact on their ability to learn, play and interact with others. Poor vision can lead to struggles participating in activities and connecting with others. It can also make it difficult for your child to focus on assignments, which can result in low grades and frustration for both you and your child.

The good news, says Dr. Maedi Bartolacci, a pediatric optometrist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, is poor vision can be easily diagnosed and corrected.

“It’s important to talk with your child’s primary care provider about the vision needs of your child,” she says. “Most people don’t realize that children are not born with perfect vision.”

Just as the body grows and develops, Dr. Bartolacci says the eyes and core components of the visual system also develop over time. She recommends that your child have a comprehensive eye exam once during infancy (age 0 to 2), once during the preschool years (age 3 to 5) and again during the school-age years (over age 6) to ensure proper eye and visual development.

Annual comprehensive eye exams

Annual comprehensive eye exams performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist are not required if your child performs well on routine vision screenings — your pediatrician or family medicine doctor will do this basic test every year. It is designed to highlight vision problems, such as amblyopia, or “lazy eye.”

Your child may require more frequent comprehensive eye exams if he or she:

  • Fails a routine vision screening

  • Has been diagnosed with a vision problem

  • Has a family history of vision or eye problems

  • Has been performing poorly in school

Reading glasses

Over-the-counter, nonprescription reading glasses, like those at your local drug store, should not be used for children who fail their doctor’s general vision screening. A few symptoms that may indicate the need for prescription reading glasses include:

  • Frequent squinting, eye crossing or eye rubbing

  • Complaints about not wanting to read because of tired eyes, or double vision problems while reading or doing school work

Retinal imaging

If your child requires a comprehensive eye exam, the optometrist or ophthalmologist will perform a dilated eye exam, which is the best way to look for abnormal eye conditions.

Retinal imaging enables your optometrist to take photos of the retina — the part of the eye that sees light. Most children don’t require these tests unless there are pre-diagnosed risk factors present, including:

  • Retinal or optic nerve issues

  • Diabetes, which can damage the retina

  • Low vision that doesn’t get better with prescription glasses 

As a parent, you know how important it is to maintain a healthy environment for your child. It’s OK to ask questions in order to feel comfortable with the care you receive. Your doctor is your best source of information when it comes to your family’s health.

Learn more about children’s health; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

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