As kids, we were all told not to sit too close to the television, eat our carrots and to not to cross our eyes because they would stick that way. But according to Kidshealth, none of these tell the whole story. Sitting close to the television or computer has shown no evidence of harming eyesight, though it may be a sign of nearsightedness or cause dry eyes due to a decreased blink rate in children. The vitamin A that is necessary for sight is found in carrots, but it is also found in any well-balanced diet. And of course, crossing your eyes will not force them to stay that way.
There are a lot of myths surrounding eyesight, and it can be difficult to sort out what is true from what isn't. Eye rubbing, light sensitivity, abnormal alignment of the eyes, redness, tearing, a white pupil and trouble focusing or visually tracking are all signs of eye problems in children. 25 percent of children have trouble seeing clearly, which makes regular eye appointments even more important. The majority of eye conditions can be treated more easily upon early detection and most can be pinpointed with a simple acuity test. The three most common eyesight problems in children are:
- Amblyopia: A "lazy eye" caused by crossed eyes or a refractive error that inhibits vision. This is most easily treated and reversed in the preschool years because if untreated, it can result in irreversible damage.
- Strabismus: A misalignment of the eye that can be treated by wearing a patch over the properly aligned eye, forcing the other to work. Surgery or special glasses may also be used to treat this.
- Refractive errors: The common eyesight problems we all think of: nearsightedness (the most common in school-age children), farsightedness and astigmatism.
To proactively pinpoint and treat eye conditions, it is recommended that eyes be checked:
- At birth - Newborns should be examined for general eye health
- At age 1 - Pediatricians should administer regular screenings during checkups
- At age 3.5 - Children should take a vision and visual acuity test.
- At age 5 - Children should take another vision test and eye alignment test
- After age 5 - Routine checkups should still be administered. Children who wear glasses or contacts should have their eyesight checked annually, and any child experiencing one or some of the symptoms listed above should have an eye exam as well.
Talk to your doctor about ensuring your child's eye health at your next appointment.