The eyes have it — What parents need to know about their kids and eye exams

By Rebecca Long Pyper
For the Journal

Good vision is key to success for kids, especially since being able to see the board is crucial for classroom academics. By being proactive about your children’s vision, you’ll help kids keep pace with their potential, rather than trying to catch up later.

Dr. Jay Borgholthaus, an optometrist with Summit Eyecare, outlines when visits to the eye doctor should start. He also identifies signs that vision is getting worse, and when contacts might be a better option than glasses.

>> Get an eye exam earlier than you might think. Borgholthaus recommends by age 3 or 4 so the child is ready to hit kindergarten at full speed. An exam can alleviate other concerns too. In some cases, parents are worried because their children’s eyes appear to turn in. But in actuality, there is no developmental problem with the eyes. A doctor’s visit can set some fears at ease.

However, if your child isn’t developing at the same pace as their siblings, other peers, or at the same rate he or she once was, decreasing vision could be the cause. Schedule an exam to rule this out or to get some glasses.

>> Be aware of some signs that vision is declining — one of the most common clues is if “they’re maybe struggling to see different things they know they should see,” Borgholthaus said, like getting closer to the TV than they used to.

Some kids might squint, but that’s not a sure sign, or something parents can depend on.

“Sometimes (kids) don’t realize the blur is not normal, so they just go with the flow,” he said, adding that he’s had patients as old as 20 be shocked at how much better they could be seeing with glasses or contacts — they just didn’t know that level of clarity was possible.

>> Contacts are an option and maybe at a younger age than you’d expect. Borgholthaus said the right age for transitioning from glasses to contacts depends on each patient. He gauges the prescription, how active patients are and how responsible their parents feel they can be. He sometimes fits kids as young as 6 years old with contact lessons, depending on their situation and lifestyle.

An optometrist will also help parents determine which lenses are best for their kids. Though less popular than soft lenses, rigid-gas-permeable lenses can slow the progression of nearsightedness is some situations, for example.

Classical spectacle on eye chart

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