Vision FAQ’s – Children and Teens

09 Mar

This useful article appeared in the October Healthwise Section of The Fayette Citizen.  Since it is not available online it is republished here.  In it we answer the most common questions Dr. Henahan receives about vision in children and teens.

At what age should my child have their first eye exam?

Most organizations, like the American Optometric Association feel that a child should have a first exam before age 1.  The problem with this is that finding an eye doctor who has the special equipment and training to evaluate infants is difficult.  In our area, the waiting time for an appointment with a pediatric ophthalmologist is more than six weeks.

If you (or your pediatrician) suspect any vision problems, have a family history of congenital vision problems, then it is advisable to have an infant eye exam with a pediatric specialist.

For most other children, a first eye exam around age 5 is ideal.  The child is old enough to allow for a very thorough eye exam that with great accuracy can determine if glasses are needed.  If no problems are found, repeat exams are recommended approximately every three years.

What is lazy eye?

Amblyopia, also known as lazy eye, affects just two to three percent of the population. But, if left uncorrected, this vision problem can have a very big impact. Central vision fails to develop properly, usually in one eye, which is called amblyopic.  Untreated amblyopia may lead to functional blindness in the affected eye. Although the amblyopic eye has the capability to see, the brain “turns off” this eye because vision is very blurred, and the brain elects to see only with the stronger eye.  Proper intervention, which may include glasses and eye exercises (vision therapy), can drastically improve vision in the affected eye of these children, especially if diagnosed before age 6.

Why does my child struggle in school?

There are many reasons for poor school performance.  Developmental and learning disabilities, AD/HD, Asperger’s and autism are just a few possible causes.  Even if your child is diagnosed with one of these conditions, an eye exam to rule out vision problems is essential.  Remember, approximately 80% of what a child learns comes through their visual system.  A complete eye exam with dilated pupils is a key way to determine if your child’s visual system is doing it’s part.

My child is complaining of difficulty seeing the board in school, what does that mean?

Myopia (nearsightedness) is a vision problem that manifests as difficulty seeing far away.  This condition can come on at any age, but most commonly arises in late elementary school or early middle school.  Correction of myopia is straightforward with glasses or contact lenses.

At what age can my child wear contact lenses?

Depending upon your child’s prescription and level of maturity, a good rule of thumb is around age eleven.  Dr. Henahan has fit younger children in contact lenses, but it is important for parents to carefully monitor the younger child’s actions to insure safe practices with respect to contact lens care.

Advances in contact lens care and materials have made them dramatically safer than five or ten years ago if the child cares for their contacts properly.

Can my child sleep in their contacts?

Sleeping in contact lenses is the single greatest cause of complications among those who wear lenses.  Even in the safest materials, contact lens over wear causes at least a tenfold increase in eye infection and other dangerous complications.  Teaching and reinforcing the dangers of contact lens overwear is one of Dr. Henahan’s top priorities.

How important is it to replace my child’s contact lenses on schedule?

Apart from sleeping in lenses, failure to replace contacts on schedule is the second biggest cause of complications that arise from the use of contact lenses.  Contact lenses should be replaced as directed by your eye doctor, or monthly at a minimum (this does not apply to patients wearing rigid or hard contact lenses).

Additionally, your child should get a new case with their contact lenses with each new bottle of solution.  Additionally, replacing the solution that your contacts soak in should be done daily.  The contact lens solution is not effective in cleaning or disinfecting a contact lens after the first night.  Each morning when the contact lenses are put on, the case should have the solution rinsed out of it and allowed to air dry (with the top off) during the day. Fresh solution should be used when taking the lenses out in the evening.

What type of contact lens is best for my child?

For most children, soft disposable lenses represent the best balance of comfort, easy care, clear vision and safety.  For some children, disposable lenses are not an option due to the nature of their prescription, but other lens options do exist which allow us to fit almost any child in contacts.

What about LASIK?

LASIK eye surgery is an excellent option for many people with glasses or contacts who wish to eliminate their dependence on glasses or contacts.  However, one must be at least 18 years of age to undergo LASIK.  Furthermore, it is important that the prescription is not changing.  Typically, most children continue to see prescription changes until they are in their early to mid 20’s.  Dr. Henahan advises against LASIK until your child’s prescription has been stable for two years.

Dr. John Henahan is a fellowship trained doctor of optometry practicing and living right here in Peachtree City with his wife and two sons.  You may call his office at (770) 487-0667 or request an appointment here.

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