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All About Vision

Treatment of Macular Degeneration

While there is no cure for macular degeneration, treatments do exist that can delay the progression of the disease, preserve existing vision and sometimes even improve vision loss.

Currently, there are no approved treatments to prevent or cure dry AMD, although there is evidence that indicates that certain nutritional supplements, including omega 3 fatty acids, lutein and zeaxanthin, can prevent the progression of the disease to the more advanced wet form, which can cause more severe vision loss.

There are a couple of options for treating wet AMD to slow the progression of vision loss which include medicated injections and laser therapy. These therapies are designed to stop the development of new blood vessels, to destroy existing ones and to prevent leakage into the macula – the main dangers with wet AMD.

Unfortunately, while much research continues to be conducted, currently there is no treatment and no way to fully regain vision lost by AMD. Those who have suffered significant vision loss can benefit from the many low vision devices on the market which utilize your existing vision to assist in maintaining your independence. Such devices include standing and hand-held magnifiers and telescopes and other aides that can help to improve your vision.

If you have been diagnosed with AMD, regular vision tests are essential. Close monitoring and adherence to treatment can not only prevent further vision deterioration but can sometimes even improve vision.

Eye Allergies

Along with congestion, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, headaches and difficulty breathing, individuals with allergies often suffer from eye allergies or allergic conjunctivitis resulting in red, watery, itchy and sometimes swollen eyes. Just as irritants cause an allergic response in your nasal and respiratory system, your eyes also react with an oversensitive immune response, triggered by an environmental substance that most people’s immune systems ignore. Most individuals with allergies also suffer from eye allergies which affect millions of North Americans, particularly with seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) which is common during the spring, summer and fall.

What Causes An Eye Allergy?

Eye allergies, or any allergies for that matter, occur when the immune system is hypersensitized to a stimulus in the environment that comes into contact with the eye. The allergen stimulates the antibodies in the cells of your eyes to respond by releasing histamine and other chemicals that cause the eyes and surrounding tissue to become inflamed, red, watery, burning and itchy.

Eye allergens can include:

  • Airborne substances found in nature such as pollen from flowers, grass or trees.
  • Indoor allergens such as pet dander, dust or mold.
  • Irritants such as cosmetics, chemicals, cigarette smoke, or perfume.

Tips for Coping With Eye Allergies

Allergies can go from mildly uncomfortable to debilitating. Knowing how to alleviate symptoms and reduce exposure can greatly improve your comfort and quality of life, particularly during allergy season which can last from April until October.

To reduce exposure to allergens:

  1. Stay indoors and keep windows closed when pollen counts are high, especially in the mid-morning and early evening.
  2. Wear sunglasses outside to protect your eyes, not only from UV rays, but also from airborne allergens.
  3. Avoid rubbing your eyes, this can intensify symptoms and increase irritation. When the eyes get itchy, it is difficult not to rub and scratch them. However, rubbing the eyes can aggravate the allergic cascade response, making them more swollen, red, and uncomfortable.
  4. Check and regularly clean your air conditioning filters.
  5. Keep pets outdoors if you have pet allergies and wash your hands after petting an animal.
  6. Use dust-mite-proof covers on bedding and pillows and wash linens frequently.
  7. Clean surfaces with a damp cloth rather than dusting or dry sweeping.
  8. Remove any mold in your home.
  9. Reducing contact lens wear during allergy season or switch to daily disposable contact lenses.

Treatment for the uncomfortable symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis include over-the-counter and prescription drops and medications. It is best to know the source of the allergy reaction to avoid symptoms. Often people wait until the allergy response is more severe to take allergy medication, but most allergy medications work best when taken just prior to being exposed to the allergen. Consult your eye doctor about your symptoms and which treatment is best for you.

Non-prescription medications include:

  • Artificial tears (to reduce dryness)
  • Decongestant eyedrops
  • Oral antihistamines

Prescription medications include eyedrops such as antihistamines, mast-cell stabilizers, or stronger decongestants as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids.

Immunotherapy which are allergy injections given by an allergist are sometimes also helpful to assist your body in building up immunity to the allergens that elicit the allergic response.

If no allergy medicine is on hand, even cool compresses and artificial tears can help alleviate symptoms.

Finding the right treatment for your allergies can make all the difference in your quality of life, particularly during the time of year when most of us like to enjoy the outdoors.

Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome (DES or dry eye) is a chronic lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture on the surface of the eye. Its consequences range from minor irritation to the inability to wear contact lenses and an increased risk of corneal inflammation and eye infections.

Signs and Symptoms of Dry Eye

Persistent dryness, scratchiness and a burning sensation on your eyes are common symptoms of dry eye syndrome. These symptoms alone may be enough for your eye doctor to diagnose dry eye syndrome. Sometimes, he or she may want to measure the amount of tears in your eyes. A thin strip of filter paper placed at the edge of the eye, called a Schirmer test, is one way of measuring this.

Some people with dry eyes also experience a “foreign body sensation” – the feeling that something is in the eye. And it may seem odd, but sometimes dry eye syndrome can cause watery eyes, because the excessive dryness works to overstimulate production of the watery component of your eye’s tears.

What Causes Dry Eyes?

In dry eye syndrome, the tear glands that moisturize the eye don’t produce enough tears, or the tears have a chemical composition that causes them to evaporate too quickly.

Dry eye syndrome has several causes. It occurs:

  • As a part of the natural aging process, especially among women over age 40.
  • As a side effect of many medications, such as antihistamines, antidepressants, certain blood pressure medicines, Parkinson’s medications and birth control pills.
  • Because you live in a dry, dusty or windy climate with low humidity.

If your home or office has air conditioning or a dry heating system, that too can dry out your eyes. Another cause is insufficient blinking, such as when you’re staring at a computer screen all day.

Dry eyes are also associated with certain systemic diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, rosacea or Sjogren’s Syndrome (a triad of dry eyes, dry mouth, and rheumatoid arthritis or lupus).

Long-term contact lens wear, incomplete closure of the eyelids, eyelid disease and a deficiency of the tear-producing glands are other causes.

Dry eye syndrome is more common in women, possibly due to hormone fluctuations. Recent research suggests that smoking, too, can increase your risk of dry eye syndrome. Dry eye has also been associated with incomplete lid closure following blepharoplasty – a popular cosmetic surgery to eliminate droopy eyelids.

Treatment for Dry Eye

Dry eye syndrome is an ongoing condition that treatments may be unable to cure. But the symptoms of dry eye – including dryness, scratchiness and burning – can usually be successfully managed.

Your eyecare practitioner may recommend artificial tears, which are lubricating eye drops that may alleviate the dry, scratchy feeling and foreign body sensation of dry eye. Prescription eye drops for dry eye go one step further: they help increase your tear production. In some cases, your doctor may also prescribe a steroid for more immediate short-term relief.

Another option for dry eye treatment involves a tiny insert filled with a lubricating ingredient. The insert is placed just inside the lower eyelid, where it continuously releases lubrication throughout the day.

If you wear contact lenses, be aware that many artificial tears cannot be used during contact lens wear. You may need to remove your lenses before using the drops. Wait 15 minutes or longer (check the label) before reinserting them. For mild dry eye, contact lens rewetting drops may be sufficient to make your eyes feel better, but the effect is usually only temporary. Switching to another lens brand could also help.

Check the label, but better yet, check with your doctor before buying any over-the-counter eye drops. Your eye doctor will know which formulas are effective and long-lasting and which are not, as well as which eye drops will work with your contact lenses.

To reduce the effects of sun, wind and dust on dry eyes, wear sunglasses when outdoors. Wraparound styles offer the best protection.

Indoors, an air cleaner can filter out dust and other particles from the air, while a humidifier adds moisture to air that’s too dry because of air conditioning or heating.

For more significant cases of dry eye, your eye doctor may recommend punctal plugs. These tiny devices are inserted in ducts in your lids to slow the drainage of tears away from your eyes, thereby keeping your eyes more moist.

If your dry eye is caused by meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), your doctor may recommend warm compresses and suggest an in-office procedure to clear the blocked glands and restore normal function.

Doctors sometimes also recommend special nutritional supplements containing certain essential fatty acids to decrease dry eye symptoms. Drinking more water may also offer some relief.

If medications are the cause of dry eyes, discontinuing the drug generally resolves the problem. But in this case, the benefits of the drug must be weighed against the side effect of dry eyes. Sometimes switching to a different type of medication alleviates the dry eye symptoms while keeping the needed treatment. In any case, never switch or discontinue your medications without consulting with your doctor first.

Treating any underlying eyelid disease, such as blepharitis, helps as well. This may call for antibiotic or steroid drops, plus frequent eyelid scrubs with an antibacterial shampoo.

If you are considering LASIK, be aware that dry eyes may disqualify you for the surgery, at least until your dry eye condition is successfully treated. Dry eyes increase your risk for poor healing after LASIK, so most surgeons will want to treat the dry eyes first, to ensure a good LASIK outcome. This goes for other types of vision correction surgery, as well.

Blepharitis

Blepharitis is an eye condition characterized by an inflammation of the eyelids which causes redness, itching and irritation. The common eye condition is caused by either a skin disorder or a bacterial infection. Blepharitis is generally not contagious and can affect patients of any age. While it can be very uncomfortable, it usually does not pose any danger to your vision.

There are two types of blepharitis: anterior and posterior.

Anterior blepharitis occurs on the front of your eyelids in the area where the eyelashes attach to the lid. This form is less common and is usually caused by a bacterial infection or seborrheic dermatitis, which is a skin disorder (dandruff) that causes flaking and itching of the skin on the scalp and eyebrows. While it is more rare, allergies or mites on the eyelashes can also lead to this condition.

Posterior blepharitis occurs on the inner eyelid that is closer to the actual eyeball. This more common form is often caused by rosacea, dandruff or meibomian gland problems which affect the production of oil in your eyelids.

Symptoms of Blepharitis

Blepharitis can vary greatly in severity and cause a variety of symptoms which include:

  • Red, swollen eyelids
  • Itching
  • Burning or gritty sensation
  • Excessive tearing
  • Dry eyes
  • Crusting on eyelids

If left untreated, symptoms can become more severe such as:

  • Blurred vision
  • Infections and styes
  • Loss of eyelashes or crooked eyelashes
  • Eye inflammation or erosion, particularly the cornea
  • Dilated capillaries
  • Irregular eyelid margin

Treatment for Blepharitis

Treatment for blepharitis depends on the cause of the condition but a very important aspect is keeping the eyelids clean. Warm compresses are usually recommended to soak the lids and loosen any crust to be washed away. It is recommended to use a gentle cleaner (baby soap or an over the counter lid-cleansing agent) to clean the area.

For bacterial infections, antibiotic drops or ointments may be prescribed, and in serious cases steroidal treatment (usually drops) may be used.

Blepharitis is typically a recurring condition so here are some tips for dealing with flare-ups:

  • Use an anti-dandruff shampoo when washing your hair
  • Massage the eyelids to release the oil from the meibomian glands
  • Use artificial tears to moisten eyes when they feel dry
  • Consider breaking from use of contact lenses during the time of the flare-up and or switching to daily disposable lenses.

The most important way to increase your comfort with blepharitis is by keeping good eyelid hygiene. Speak to your doctor about products that he or she recommends.

Astigmatism

Many people have never heard of astigmatism, although it is an extremely common eye condition.

Astigmatism is one type of refractive error. Nearsightedness and farsightedness are other types of refractive error. Refractive errors are not eye diseases. Refractive error is a result of and imperfection of the size and shape of the eye, which results in blurry or double vision.

If left untreated, astigmatism may cause eyestrain, headaches, and blurry vision. If you have astigmatism you may not see objects in the distance or near without some form of distortion.

Symptoms of Astigmatism

Small amounts of astigmatism can go unnoticed, however, you may be suffering from eye fatigue, eyestrain, and headaches.

Astigmatism is a condition that usually can develops early in childhood. According to a study from The Ohio State University School of Optometry, 28% of school age children suffer from astigmatism. Parents should be aware that their children might not notice that their vision is blurry, not understanding that this is not normal. Nevertheless, astigmatism should be treated because vision problems can lead to learning problems and in extracurricular activities. Make sure to have your child’s eyes examined at an eye doctor’s office at least once a year.

Causes of Astigmatism

Astigmatism is generally caused by a cornea with an irregular shape. The cornea is the front, clear layer of the eye. With astigmatism, the cornea is not round and spherical and is instead irregular having two curves instead of one curve. Astigmatism in some cases could also be caused by the lens located inside the eye that is irregular in shape.

Eyes with astigmatism distort the light that comes into the eyes because the cornea is irregularly shaped. This causes the light rays entering the eye to create two images in the back of the eye (because of the two curves), instead of one image. This is what causes the distortion in sight.

Treatments for Astigmatism

For most people, their astigmatism is fully corrected using prescription glasses or contact lenses. If you select contact lenses to correct your vision, soft contact lenses are the most common option. If for whatever reason soft contact lenses are not an option, rigid gas permeable (RGP or GP) are also a great choice. Rigid gas permeable lenses usually give the clearest vision but the adaptation process will be significantly longer. Another option are hybrid contact lenses. These contacts have a center made from a rigid gas permeable (RGP) lens and an outer ring made of soft contact lens material. This type of lens provides both excellent clarity and comfort. LASIK could be another option to correct astigmatism. LASIK usually only corrects low levels of astigmatism and some patients with higher levels of astigmatism might not be candidates.

Cataracts

Cataracts are one of the leading causes of vision loss in people over 45. A condition that commonly develops as the eye ages, by the time we reach 80, more than half of us will have developed a cataract.

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in your eye which is normally transparent. The lens, located inside the eye, behind the iris and the pupil, focuses light onto the retina at the back of your eye, where it is converted to nerve signals that are passed to the brain, allowing you to see. When your lens becomes cloudy, the images projected onto your retina become blurry and unfocused and therefore the signal to the brain is also unclear. You can compare this to looking through a dirty or cloudy window. If the window is not clear, you can’t see well.

Usually cataracts develop slowly over time so your vision gradually worsens. While the majority of cataracts are a result of the aging process, there are also congenital cataracts that are present at birth, secondary cataracts that result from eye surgery or diseases such as glaucoma or diabetes and traumatic cataracts that result at any age from an injury to the eye.

While you may be able to live with mild or moderate cataracts, severe cataracts are treated with surgery. The procedure involves removing the clouded lens and replacing it with an intraocular lens (IOL) implant. Cataract surgery is a common procedure that has a very high success rate of restoring vision to patients. Modern cataract surgery is frequently done as an outpatient procedure. Patients will have greatly improved vision the next day, and will continue to improve over the next few weeks. Surgery is often done in one eye first, and surgery on the second eye, if needed, may be done 2 weeks later.

Learn more about the specifics of Cataracts on the links below:

  • Signs & Symptoms of Cataracts Understand the warning signs and symptoms of cataracts to prevent them from affecting your daily life.
  • Risk Factors of Cataracts Learn more about the risk factors associated with cataracts and what measures you can take to prevent or delay them.
  • Treatment for Cataracts and Cataract Surgery Treatment options for living with cataracts. Learn more about cataract surgery and how to know if it is right for you.
  • Intraocular Lenses (IOLs) If you are getting cataract surgery, there are a variety of IOLs to choose from including presbyopia-correcting IOLs, which can also correct for near vision loss associated with aging.
  • Preventing Cataracts Additional information including lifestyle factors that could impact cataracts.

Controlling Nearsightedness in Children

Childhood myopia or nearsightedness is a common condition that causes blurred distance vision and can usually be easily corrected with either glasses or contact lenses. Unfortunately, simply getting a pair of glasses doesn’t always solve the problem, because often myopia is progressive which means that every year the vision gets worse. This usually continues until sometime around the child’s 20th birthday when his eyes stop growing and eyesight levels off.

It can be worrisome and quite disconcerting for both the parent and the child when each visit to the eye doctor results in a higher prescription. There could be a number of factors involved in progressive myopia, involving hereditary factors as well as possible environmental or behavioral factor such as frequent close-up tasks such as reading or using an electronic device. In fact, studies show that children that spend more time outdoors playing have a lower incidence of myopia. Much research is currently being done into treatments for slowing or stopping myopia progression in children. Here are some of the treatment options currently being offered:

Orthokeratology (Ortho-k)

Ortho-k is a process that uses specially designed rigid gas permeable contact lenses worn at night to gently reshape the cornea, eventually allowing clear vision during the day. The lenses are worn every night or every couple of nights depending on the results of the individual. Ideal for mild to moderate myopia, ortho-k usually takes a few weeks to show results, during which time the patient may need to temporarily continue wearing glasses or contact lenses.

Studies show that the use of ortho-k can permanently reduce the progressive lengthening of the cornea which is responsible for nearsightedness and can therefore slow or stop the childhood progression of the condition. Therefore, in addition to being used for myopia correction, it is now also being offered as a therapeutic treatment to halt myopia progression in children.

Multifocal Eyeglasses or Contact Lenses

Bifocal or multifocal soft contact lenses or glasses have been shown in some studies to slow myopia progression. This therapy is based on the idea that the eye is strained from accommodating to see close up and that by providing multiple focusing powers, this allows the eye to relax when doing near work, which reduces the progression of the refractive error. This treatment has been shown to delay or slow the advancement of myopia in some children.

Atropine Drops

Treatment with atropine drops is another therapy that is used to relax the eye from “focusing fatigue” which may be a culprit in myopia progression. Research is still being done but some studies show that daily use of low doses of atropine drops do slow the progression of myopia. Atropine drops dilate the pupil which temporarily prevents the eye from being able to focus, thereby allowing this mechanism to relax. Research is still being done to determine dosages, but the results are promising.

If your child has progressive myopia, seek out a pediatric optometrist who is knowledgeable about the options available. Finding the right treatment could give your child the gift of better eyesight for life.

Are Contact Lenses a Good Choice for Kids?

Many children who wear glasses want to switch to contact lenses, especially older children who are concerned with their appearance. So, how do you know if and when contact lenses might be an option for your child?

Contact lenses may not only improve a child’s confidence in their appearance but they can also be very convenient for active children who play sports or those who tend to lose or break their glasses.

Yet before you jump to schedule an appointment with the optometrist, it’s important to know that while contact lenses are a great solution for many, they are still medical devices that require care and responsibility. Carelessness with contact lenses can lead to infections, irritation, scratched corneas, pain, and sometimes even vision loss. So if you want to know if contact lenses are a good choice for your child, read below and think about whether your child is mature and responsible enough to take proper care of his or her eyes.

At What Age Can a Child Start Wearing Contact Lenses?

The recommended age for kids to start considering contact lenses varies however it is generally accepted that sometime between 11 and 14 is ideal. Some doctors will recommend them even for children as young as 8 years old who have shown that they are responsible enough to use them. Contact lens use requires good hygiene and cleanliness so if your child shows those traits, she may be ready. Additionally, if he is highly motivated to wear contacts and if he has the support of his parents, this will help in ensuring that the daily regimen is a success.

What is the Process of Getting Fitted for Contacts?

The first step is to schedule an appointment for a contact lens exam with your optometrist. The eye doctor will perform a vision exam and go over the different options for contact lenses, depending on the prescription, the health of the eye and lifestyle and personal preferences. Contact lenses are designed with a number of options including the lens materials used (soft or rigid gas permeable), the replacement schedule (if disposable, how often you replace the pair – daily, weekly, biweekly or monthly) and the wear schedule (daily or extended overnight wear). Often doctors will recommend daily lenses for children because they are thrown away after each use so there is less care involved, less buildup and less risk for infection.

Then the doctor will give a training on inserting and removing the lenses as well as instructions for proper care. Your child will probably be given a schedule for wearing the lenses for the first week or so in order to allow their eyes to adapt. During this time you may have to be in touch with your eye doctor to assess the comfort and fit of the lenses and you may have to try out a couple of options in order to find the best fit.

Purchasing Contact Lenses

As a medical device, contact lenses require a prescription and should only be purchased from a licensed distributor such as an eye doctor. Unauthorized or unmonitored contact lenses can cause severe damage to your eyes that could result in blindness. This is true also for cosmetic lenses such as colored lenses or costume lenses. Any time you are putting a lens in your eye, you must have a proper prescription.

Following are some basic contact lens safety tips. If your child is responsible enough to follow these guidelines, he or she may be ready for contact lens use:

  1. Always follow the wearing schedule prescribed by your doctor.
  2. Always wash your hands with soap before applying or removing contact lenses.
  3. Never use any substance other than contact lens rinse or solution to clean contacts (even tap water is a no-no).
  4. Never reuse contact lens solution
  5. Follow the eye doctor’s advice about Don’t swimming or showering in your lenses
  6. Always remove your lenses if they are bothering you or causing irritation.
  7. Never sleep in your lenses unless they are extended wear.
  8. Never use any contact lenses that were not acquired with a prescription at an authorized source. Never purchase cosmetic lenses without a prescription!

Contact lens use is also an ongoing process. As a child grows, the lens fit may change as well, so it is important to have annual contact lens assessments. Plus, new technology is always being developed to improve comfort and quality of contact lenses.

Contact lenses are a wonderful invention but they must be used with proper care. Before you let your child take the plunge into contact lens use, make sure you review the dangers and safety guidelines.

Children's Vision – FAQ's

Most parents believe that if their child had an eye or vision problem they would know. However, this is far from the truth for a number of reasons. First of all, children often can’t express or don’t realize the difficulty they are having, and often vision problems will be overlooked by the associated behavioral issues that come as a result of frustration. Further, many eye or vision problems don’t show symptoms until they have progressed significantly which often makes the condition harder to treat.

Conditions such as amblyopia (lazy eye) or strabismus (crossed-eyes) can be corrected more effectively when they are diagnosed and treated early at a young age. Further, the sooner you diagnose and correct a vision problem, the sooner your child will be able to achieve his or her potential without struggling with these difficulties. This is why it is critical to have your child’s eyes examined by an eye doctor at regular intervals. Here are some FAQ’s and answers about Children’s Vision that every parent should know:

Q: At what ages should children have their eyes examined?

A: The official recommendations for the American and Canadian Optometric Associations are that infants should have their first eye exams at 6 months. Following that, children with no known vision issues should have another exam at 3 years and then prior to entering kindergarten. Children who do not require vision correction or therapy should have a vision checkup every year or two years and those who use vision correction should have an annual eye exam. Of course if your child is experiencing difficulty in school or after school activities that may be due to a vision problem schedule an eye exam immediately.

Q: My child passed a vision screening by the nurse at school. Does he still need an eye exam?

A: Yes. Many schools implement a basic vision screening test to assess whether the child sees clearly at a distance, however these tests are limited in scope. They do not assess functional vision such as the child’s ability to focus, track words on a page or the eyes’ ability to work in tandem. They also do not look at the health of the eye itself. These tests are essential to know the comprehensive picture of how healthy the eyes are and how well they are doing their job. In fact, studies shown that up to 43% of children with vision problems can pass a vision screening test! A comprehensive eye exam will assess all of these functions as well as color vision, depth perception, and eye coordination.

Q: My child was diagnosed with strabismus and amblyopia. Can this be treated and if so, what are the options?

A: Especially when diagnosed early, chances of a complete correction for strabismus and amblyopia are good when treated properly. The optimal age for this to occur is before 8-10 years old. Depending on the severity of the strabismus (crossed-eye), surgery may be required to straighten and properly align the crossed eyes. Amblyopia (lazy eye) can then be treated using eyeglasses, eye patching, or vision therapy to strengthen the weak eye and train the eyes to work together. A doctor that specializes in pediatric optometry can assess the condition and discuss treatment options on an individual basis.

Q: What is vision therapy?

A: Vision therapy is a doctor-supervised, individualized program of exercises to strengthen the functions of the eye. It is used to correct issues with eye alignment, focusing, coordination, tracking and more. Vision therapy often utilizes tools such as specialized lenses or prisms and involves exercises both during office visits and at home to reinforce the changes. The process usually takes about 6 months to see lasting improvement.

Q: My son’s nearsightedness keeps getting worse – he needs a new prescription every year. Is there a way to stop this?

A: There is research that shows that progressive myopia can be stopped or slowed during the childhood years. There are a number of therapies that are used for what is called “myopia control” including multifocal eyeglasses or contact lenses, orthokeratology (ortho-k) or atropine eye drops. Speak to a pediatric optometry specialist to learn more about the options and what might work best for your child.

Q: Every morning it is a fight to get my child to wear her glasses. What can I do?

A: It may take time for your child to adapt to the feel of the glasses and to be comfortable seeing with them. For little children, you can find glasses that come with integrated headbands that can help to hold the glasses in place. It helps to be consistent in putting them on to allow the child to adapt to the feel of the glasses.

Very often, especially for small children that can’t tell you what is bothering them, the reason for a child’s refusal to wear glasses is that something is not comfortable. It could be that the prescription is not right, that the glasses pinch or that are feeling heavy. It could be worthwhile to take the glasses back to the eye doctor to ensure that they are in fact a proper fit.

Q: At what age is it acceptable for a child to wear contact lenses?

A: Contact lenses can be a great convenience, especially for kids that are active or tend to break or lose their glasses. However, they are a medical device that must be treated with proper care and hygiene. If a child is not responsible enough to take care of them properly he could end up with a serious eye infection, a scratched cornea or worse. Most experts agree that the youngest age that contact lenses should be considered would be between 10-12 depending on the child’s maturity and cleanliness. Consult with your eye doctor about what would be best for your child.

Eye Exams for Children

According to experts, 80% of learning is visual, which means that if your child is having difficulty seeing clearly, his or her learning can be affected. This also goes for infants who develop and learn about the world around them through their sense of sight. To ensure that your children have the visual resources they need to grow and develop normally, their eyes and vision should be checked by an eye doctor at certain stages of their development.

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA) children should have their eyes examined by an eye doctor at 6 months, 3 years, at the start of school, and then at least every 2 years following. If there are any signs that there may be a vision problem or if the child has certain risk factors (such as developmental delays, premature birth, crossed or lazy eyes, family history or previous injuries) more frequent exams are recommended. A child that wears eyeglasses or contact lenses should have his or her eyes examined yearly. Children’s eyes can change rapidly as they grow.

Eye Exams in Infants: Birth – 24 Months

A baby’s visual system develops gradually over the first few months of life. They have to learn to focus and move their eyes, and use them together as a team. The brain also needs to learn how to process the visual information from the eyes to understand and interact with the world. With the development of eyesight, comes also the foundation for motor development such as crawling, walking and hand-eye coordination.

You can ensure that your baby is reaching milestones by keeping an eye on what is happening with your infant’s development and by ensuring that you schedule a comprehensive infant eye exam at 6 months. At this exam, the eye doctor will check that the child is seeing properly and developing on track and look for conditions that could impair eye health or vision (such as strabismus(misalignment or crossing of the eyes), farsightedness, nearsightedness, or astigmatism).

Since there is a higher risk of eye and vision problems if your infant was born premature or is showing signs of developmental delay, your eye doctor may require more frequent visits to keep watch on his or her progress.

Eye Exams in Preschool Children: 2-5

The toddler and preschool age is a period where children experience drastic growth in intellectual and motor skills. During this time they will develop the fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and perceptual abilities that will prepare them to read and write, play sports and participate in creative activities such as drawing, sculpting or building. This is all dependent upon good vision and visual processes.

This is the age when parents should be on the lookout for signs of lazy eye (amblyopia) – when one eye doesn’t see clearly, or crossed eyes (strabismus) – when one or both eyes turns inward or outward. The earlier these conditions are treated, the higher the success rate.

Parents should also be aware of any developmental delays having to do with object, number or letter recognition, color recognition or coordination, as the root of such problems can often be visual. If you notice your child squinting, rubbing his eyes frequently, sitting very close to the tv or reading material, or generally avoiding activities such as puzzles or coloring, it is worth a trip to the eye doctor.

Eye Exams in School-Aged Children: Ages 6-18

Undetected or uncorrected vision problems can cause children and teens to suffer academically, socially, athletically and personally. If your child is having trouble in school or afterschool activities there could be an underlying vision problem. Proper learning, motor development, reading, and many other skills are dependent upon not only good vision, but also the ability of your eyes to work together. Children that have problems with focusing, reading, teaming their eyes or hand-eye coordination will often experience frustration, and may exhibit behavioral problems as well. Often they don’t know that the vision they are experiencing is abnormal, so they aren’t able to express that they need help.

In addition to the symptoms written above, signs of vision problems in older children include:

  • Short attention span
  • Headaches
  • Frequent blinking
  • Avoiding reading
  • Tilting the head to one side
  • Losing their place often while reading
  • Double vision
  • Poor reading comprehension

The Eye Exam

In addition to basic visual acuity (distance and near vision) an eye exam may assess the following visual skills that are required for learning and mobility:

  • Binocular vision: how the eyes work together as a team
  • Focusing
  • Peripheral Vision
  • Color Vision
  • Hand-eye Coordination
  • Tracking

The doctor will also examine the area around the eye and inside the eye to check for any eye diseases or health conditions. You should tell the doctor any relevant personal history of your child such as a premature birth, developmental delays, family history of eye problems, eye injuries or medications the child is taking. This would also be the time to address any concerns or issues your child has that might indicate a vision problem.

If the eye doctor does determine that your child has a vision problem, they may discuss a number of therapeutic options such as eyeglasses or contact lenses, an eye patch, vision therapy or Ortho-k, depending on the condition and the doctor’s specialty. Since some conditions are much easier to treat when they are caught early while the eyes are still developing, it is important to diagnose any eye and vision issues as early as possible.

Following the guidelines for children’s eye exams and staying alert to any signs of vision problems can help your child to reach his or her potential.