Your child's vision is their primary window into the world around them. Keeping their eyesight healthy is an important part of allowing them to experience life to the fullest.
Here are 5 tips on how to protect and improve your child's eye health:
1. Take them to the eye doctor for routine eye exams
One of the most important take-aways from any article you read on the subject of keeping your child's vision and eyes healthy, is the need to keep up with routine comprehensive eye exams.
Although your kid's school may perform vision screenings, these tests can only detect the most basic issues, such as myopia (nearsightedness) or severe amblyopia. They are not equipped to check for eye diseases that can affect your child's long-term ocular health, or binocular vision disorders that can hinder their ability to learn.
Our Santa Barbara eye doctor will be able to perform a comprehensive eye exam to check for the presence of these and other conditions. If ocular diseases or vision disorders are detected, your eye doctor will have the equipment and expertise to properly treat them.
2. Limit their screen time
Screens are an ever-present part of our lives. Children can spend hours every day texting, playing video games, watching television, and more. It is all-too-easy to spend way too much time on these digital devices, causing symptoms such as:
- Blurry vision
- Dry eye
Excessive blue light, like the kind that comes from these screens, interferes with sleep and is also thought to increase the risk of macular degeneration later in life.
To prevent symptoms and protect your child's long-term vision health, limit their screen time, when possible, to approximately one hour, and devices should be turned off a few hours before bedtime to allow your child to wind down.
3. Encourage them to eat healthy foods and get exercise
As with every part of the body, a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in ensuring the long-term health of your child's eyes.
Eating foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids is a great way to promote eye health. Good sources include fish such as salmon and herring. For vegans and others who don’t eat fish, flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts are also a great option.
Leafy greens and fruits are also important, as they're high in vitamins A, C and E, which are all important for the development and maintenance of healthy vision.
Along with a healthy diet, you should encourage your child to get up and exercise. Physical activity is good for the whole body, and that includes the eyes.
Bonus points if you can get your child outside, as sunlight and outdoor play have been shown to slow or even prevent the development of myopia. Just make sure your child wears sunglasses and a sun hat — UV rays have a cumulative effect that could lead to eye diseases like macular degeneration later in life.
4. Help them avoid eye injuries
Eye injuries are an all-too-common occurrence, especially among children.
If you have little ones at home, make sure that paints, cleaners and other dangerous chemicals and irritants are put away somewhere safe. If these ever get into their eyes, they can cause severe damage to your child's visual system, including permanent loss of vision.
For contact and ball/puck sports, ensure your child wears the right eyewear to protect their eyes from accidental impacts or pokes. Helmets should also be worn where the sport warrants it, to prevent concussions and other head injuries that can have an effect on vision.
5. Reduce eye infections
Even small, common infections such as pink eye can have an impact on your child's vision.
Hands are some of the most bacteria-filled parts of our bodies. Your child should learn not to touch their eyes with their unwashed hands, as this is the primary way of introducing germs to the eye that may result in infection.
On a similar note, if you have contact lens wearers, be sure to teach them to wash their hands each and every time they put in or take out their contact lenses. They should also learn to store and clean their lenses strictly according to their eye doctor's instructions and should change lenses according to their intended schedule. Daily contacts should be changed daily, monthly contacts, monthly.
For more information on how best to protect and improve your child's eyesight, contact Eye & Vision Care Optometric Group in Santa Barbara today.
Can I rely on the vision screenings at my child's school to catch vision and eye health issues?
No. School-based vision screenings check for basic visual acuity. Even if your child has perfect 20/20 vision, there may still be issues with visual skills or undetected eye diseases that these types of screenings are not equipped to catch.
It is important not to rely on school vision screenings as a replacement for an annual comprehensive eye exam with your local optometrist. During these visits, your eye doctor will be able to assess your child for vision skills such as:
- Eye teaming ability
- Convergence and divergence skills
- Tracking and focusing
- Visual accommodation
They will also be able to diagnose and treat conditions such as:
- (Rarely) pediatric glaucoma or cataracts
These and other conditions can only be diagnosed and treated by a trained optometrist as part of a comprehensive eye exam.
Can vision problems be misdiagnosed as ADHD/ADD?
It is unfortunately common for learning-related vision problems to go undetected. These vision problems can often mimic the symptoms of ADD/ADHD, leading to misdiagnosis and mistaken treatment.
As many as 1 out of every 4 school-age children suffers from some form of visual dysfunction. If not properly treated, a child may struggle throughout their entire school career, harming their learning and possibly their long-term self-confidence.