August means back to school, and during this time of year many parents find themselves stretched thin between buying new school clothes and supplies, meeting teachers, and scheduling sports physicals. Unfortunately, in the midst of all this activity, many parents forget to check on the one detail that may have the greatest impact on a child’s academic success: their eyesight. Most school districts around the country require basic vision screening for children in public school on an annual or semi-annual basis. Choosing instead to have your child undergo a thorough and comprehensive medical eye exam can potentially detect serious eye and vision problems early and help prevent those problems from adversely affecting a child’s classroom experience and quality of life.
Most people underestimate just how big a role vision plays in the learning process. As much as 90% of the information being processed by our brains at any given time is visual, so anything that impairs our ability to collect visual data can potentially impair learning. Moreover, when a child finds it difficult or even painful to focus on printed text, whether that text is on a board or in a book, their attention tends to wander. Research conducted by the American Optometric Association (AOA) suggests that as many as 60% of children who have been identified as “problem learners” actually suffer from undetected vision problems, usually refractive errors like nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), or astigmatism. Many of these children are even inaccurately diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Although basic refractive errors can easily be detected in a routine eye exam and corrected with prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses, a more thorough and comprehensive medical eye exam may provide additional benefits. Several serious medical conditions, such as thyroid problems and diabetes, have early symptoms that can affect the eye, and a comprehensive medical eye exam may be able to catch and diagnose these conditions in time for early treatment. Doctors are even using visual tests to diagnose damage from concussions, which is not visible in routine scans of the brain. Even though serious eye conditions are rare in children, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends that all children receive vision testing every two years if no vision correction is required, or annually if eyeglasses or contact lenses are required, starting at around 3 years of age and lasting through their teenage years. During adolescence, and particularly during puberty, a child’s eyesight can change rapidly, so regular exams are necessary in order to catch those changes early, so they can be addressed and treated before they can seriously affect performance.
Specific details of how an eye exam will be conducted depend on your child’s age, but comprehensive medical eye exams look for both common visual problems, like nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, and for more serious childhood eye conditions like lazy eye (amblyopia), eye misalignment (strabismus), and various optical diseases. Modern eye tests that are administered by trained eye care specialists, like those at Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons, can even detect certain eye problems in children who do not yet know their letters or who are too young or too shy to verbalize their responses. If you would like to schedule an eye exam with Dr. William Segal or Dr. Marc Lay, please contact Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more information on how to keep your vision clear and healthy.