Have you had your child’s eyes checked lately?

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Does your child close one eye when reading, or tilt their head when they are looking at you? These are some possible signs of vision related problems in children, writes NSM and optometrist Susan Jacob.

According to Optometry Australia, one in five children may have an undetected vision problem and they may experience difficulties with learning. And considering that 80 per cent of what we learn is through our eyes, good vision is an integral component of a child’s academic, social and physical development.

Early detection of any vision problems is paramount in its treatment and prevention, and the formative years of a child’s life are vital for vision development. If problems are not detected during this time, there is a potential for permanent loss of vision. Often, children may not realise or be able to express that something is wrong with their vision and will unknowingly try to adapt.

Symptoms of vision problems

Your child may have a vision problem if they exhibit any of the following symptoms.

  • One eye turned in or out while the other eye is looking straight ahead
  • Red eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Frequent blinking or rubbing of eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Squinting eyes
  • Trouble seeing objects or people in the distance
  • Holds books very close when reading
  • Poor concentration
  • Skips lines or loses place while reading
  • Omits or confuses words while reading
  • Sits too close to the television
  • Tilts head when looking at things
  • Closes one eye when reading
  • Headaches
  • Blurred or double vision

How to create a healthy eye environment for your child at home

Try the following to give your child the best chance at protecting their eyes.

  • Provide good and even lighting when reading at home.
  • Have them take regular breaks when reading for prolonged periods of time.
  • Ensure the room is well lit with minimal glare and reflections from lights when watching television or doing any screen-based activities such as using the computer, smart tablets or phones.
  • Have time restrictions on screen-based activities with regular breaks for about 5-10 minutes every hour.
  • Prevent children watching television for more than two hours at one stretch and encourage them to sit as far back as possible from the screen.
  • Spend a few hours outdoors each day to help relax the eye muscles.
  • Encourage wearing sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat when playing outdoors to protect your child’s eyes from damage caused by harmful ultraviolet rays.
  • Provide a balanced and nutritious diet rich in fruit and green leafy vegetables, nuts and fish. These foods contain appropriate nutrients such as antioxidants, vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids, which are all important in promoting good eye health.

When to have your child’s eyes examined

Regular eye examinations are vital and children should have a full eye examination before starting school and then a routine check every two years. An eye examination will help to detect and correct any vision problems. The most common vision problems experienced by children are myopia or short-sightedness (difficulty seeing in the distance); hyperopia or long-sightedness (difficulty focusing up close); and astigmatism (distortion of vision due to irregular shaped cornea). These problems, once detected, are quite often easy to correct. 

Early detection really is the key, and children of all ages can be examined – even those as young as six months. Good vision is a crucial factor in ensuring that your child has the best chance of reaching their full potential.

If you are concerned about your child’s eyes and their vision, please contact your local optometrist.

Granata Eyecare in Hornsby can provide your child with a comprehensive eye examination. Call (02) 9477 1711 or visit www.hornsbyoptometrist.com.au.

Kids' glasses.

Kids’ glasses.

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