Ask an expert: How to tell if your child needs glasses

If a child sits too close to the TV, rubs his or her eyes excessively or tilts his or her head when looking at something, eye care experts say the child may need glasses or contacts.

As back-to-school time begins, parents and children are inundated with must-dos like buy school supplies, learn bus routes and find out what immunizations are required for public school. However, there are other important factors that should also be considered to prepare students for success in and out of the classroom such as detecting vision problems.

“The visual system in a child is still developing during the first seven to eight years of life. In some cases, glasses may be necessary to help normal visual development,” said Johns Hopkins ophthalmologist Megan Collins in a health story on John Hopkins’s website, www.hopkinsmedicine.org.

According to Collins, children often need glasses for a variety of reasons, including strengthening vision in an eye, also known as lazy eye correction; improving eye positions or rectifying crossed eyes; improving overall vision; or protection of poor vision in one eye.

Dr. Barry Bowles, optometrist at Kearney Vision Care, 211 Platte-Clay Way in Kearney, said obvious symptoms children exhibit that may indicate an eye exam is needed include squinting and moving closer to the television to watch programs.

“Asking you what that is a picture of at McDonald’s, not seeing the leaves on the trees, eyes that are not pointing together at all times,” he said are other obvious signs a vision check is needed.

Another sign parents should watch for, according to the John Hopkins site, is children having difficulty concentrating on school work.

“Because children need to quickly and accurately adapt their visual focus from distant to near and on a number of different objects ranging from chalkboards and computers to textbooks and tablets, vision problems may manifest as a lack of focus on schoolwork,” the site states.

Other signs, Bowles said, could be more subtle.

“They include, but are not limited to, unexplained headaches, rubbing the eyes excessively although they are not itchy, avoiding or getting tired from reading only a few minutes or tilting the head or not allowing for one eye to be covered or obstructed,” he said. “This may be a sign of being overly farsighted in one or both eyes and can develop into an eye that has permanently poorer than normal eyesight called amblyopia or lazy eye. Even an apparently straight eye may be lazy. The best prevention of this is to have your child examined before or at age 5. There will be time for correction.”

If a child is deemed to need a form of vision correction by a medical eye care professional, families have multiple options including glasses or contacts.

Thanks to technological advances, Bowles said if a child is ready for contacts versus glasses, it depends on the child.

“With the advent of newer contact lens modalities, that is higher oxygen and single-use contact lenses, there is less concern of physical damage or not adapting to contact lens wear at any age. But unsanitary wearers still run the risk of infection and inflammation. So I ask Mom or Dad of the preteen, ‘So, how does your room and bathroom look?’”

Managing Editor Amanda Lubinski can be reached at amanda.lubinski@mycouriertribune.com or 903-6001.

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