(StatePoint) Before schedules get too hectic, experts say that parents should prioritize a visit to the eye doctor this back-to-school season.
“An annual comprehensive eye exam is essential for optimal wellness, as well as ensuring your child reaches his or her full academic potential,” says Dr. Jennifer Wademan, VSP network eye doctor.
The incidence of visual impairment in preschool children is expected to increase 26 percent over the next 45 years, affecting almost 220,000 children, according to a recent study by the USC Gayle and Edward Roski Eye Institute. What’s more, kids have more demand on their eyes and vision than ever before due to the increased use of digital devices.
To help ensure a smooth transition back-to-school, consider the following tips and insights:
Get a Comprehensive Eye Exam
While 76 percent of parents said sight is the most important sense, only 50 percent take their kids for an annual eye exam, according to a recent survey conducted by YouGov and VSP Vision Care, with many parents under the incorrect impression that the vision screening conducted by the school nurse or at the pediatrician’s office is sufficient. Although many schools offer abbreviated vision screenings throughout the year, they can miss up to 80 percent of vision problems, including serious conditions like amblyopia (lazy eye), which can lead to vision loss if not treated. An annual comprehensive eye exam is the best way to detect vision problems, as well as other conditions related to the eyes that can affect overall health and wellness.
“How a child’s brain processes visual information is complex, and a screening alone isn’t a substitute for a comprehensive exam, nor is it the most reliable way to track a child’s eye health,” says Dr. Wademan. “A comprehensive eye exam with an eye doctor however, evaluates multiple aspects of vision, including the close-up skills essential for reading, tracking and focusing.”
Don’t Wait for Complaints
Among those parents who do not bring their children to the eye doctor annually, 72 percent of moms and 48 percent of dads said they would be motivated to do so if their child complains of discomfort or changes in vision. Don’t wait for that first complaint! Certain changes to eyesight can happen gradually, and children may not realize that their vision is impaired.
Dr. Wademan points out that catching problems early is important:
“When a child’s visual system is not given a clear and focused image, and if his or her eyes are not working together, the child could fail to ever achieve normal visual acuity,” she says. “These patients end up struggling to see well in adulthood, even with contacts or glasses.”
To find an eye doctor near you, visit VSP.com.
Remember, vision and learning are directly connected, as approximately 80 percent of what a child learns is presented visually. For success in the classroom, the sports field and more, start the school year right with a comprehensive eye exam.