As one of the most vital senses, eyesight helps you understand and navigate the world around you. Your eyes assist you in reading to walking to experiencing a full array of colors, shapes and sizes.
Protecting one’s eyesight starts in the womb and the sooner any eye conditions are discovered and addressed, the more likely a person will maintain healthy vision into adulthood. August is recognized as Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month in the United States. The aim is to raise awareness about the proper care of children’s eyes and preventing eye diseases and blindness.
Vision is a learning skill that develops over time. The American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Ophthalmology have excellent information on children’s vision. The latter presents several important considerations in protecting children’s eyes and vision. Some of these include:
Mothers who smoke during pregnancy are at higher risk for premature birth. Preemie babies are more susceptible to permanent vision loss or blindness. Smoking during pregnancy increases the baby’s risk five-fold for bacterial meningitis.
Newborns to 3 Months
Central vision is still developing during a baby’s first few months. The pathways between the retina and brain are still forming. At this stage, the baby begins to focus on objects right in front of them.
3 to 5 Months
As the child’s visual coordination strengthens, the baby’s eyes will begin to focus and follow moving objects. Depth perception and seeing three dimensions happens around 5 months. When a baby is around 6 months old, eye doctors will look for congenital problems such as strabismus and amblyopia (lazy eye) or misalignment.
The baby is developing visual memory in recognizing and recalling objects. Visual memory is the most essential part in learning. By this time, the child’s eyes are turning their final color with potential slight changes in iris color occurring up to age three.
Toddlers to 5 Years
Around age three to four years, the little one starts to develop eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills. Visual discrimination and recognition help the child see, understand and remember what they see. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that “In the United States, about 1 in 4 preschool-aged children have an undiagnosed or untreated vision problem.” Medical researchers note that about 80 percent of learning involves vision. Ensuring visual efficiency and clarity in early childhood helps improve academic performance, athletic performance and success later in life.
Eye Health for School-Age Children
Many children are born with farsightedness—only seeing distant objects clearly. As young ones grow and develop, their eyes lengthen and farsightedness often improves. If left uncorrected, significant farsightedness can lead to lazy eye problems. Teaching young ones to give their eyes a rest from close-up activities and digital screen time can help prevent myopia or nearsightedness which means vision is clear only for close objects. A common eye health rule is 20-20-20: looking up from the screen every 20 minutes and focusing on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Ophthalmic studies show that balancing outdoor play with indoor activities also reduces the rate of myopia in children.
Eye Health for Teens and Young Adults
Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children. Baseball is the most prevalent cause of eye injuries to youth ages 14 and older. The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that wearing protective goggles will prevent more than 90 percent of children’s eye injuries. Think offers eye protectors with polycarbonate lenses for all types of sports with a higher risk of eye injury.
Children and teens find it more challenging to wear contact lenses and care for the lenses properly. Improper care for contacts can lead to serious eye infections, which can result in impaired vision or blindness. Thorough handwashing before putting contact lenses in or taking them out helps to prevent eye contamination. Also disinfecting the lenses regularly and replacing them when your eye doctor advises will prevent troublesome eye infections.
Being Proactive About Children’s Eye Health
The National Eye Institute recommends healthy habits including eating healthy foods and getting exercise to help lower the risk of conditions and diseases (i.e., diabetes and high blood pressure) that can cause eye or vision problems. Foods that promote better eye health include dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids including salmon, tuna and halibut.
In addition to balanced nutrition and an active lifestyle, regular vision screenings are crucial for the eye and overall health of children. Detecting and correcting eye problems early in children will help safeguard their visual and developmental health. Even if a child’s eyes look healthy from the outside, he or she could still have vision problems because many eye diseases have no symptoms or warning signs. A comprehensive dilated eye exam is the only way to diagnose many eye problems and diseases.
The think optometry professionals work in tandem with the entire Think Whole Person Healthcare team. Often the primary care physicians and the family medicine and internal medicine providers will refer their patients to think Optometry to help diagnose eye injuries, congenital abnormalities, diabetes, glaucoma and any number of visual problems.
Back-to-School Optical Savings
As the kids are heading back to school, save $100 and receive a free upgrade on eyeglasses through the thinkOptical Department. Everyone in the family can save on premium, impact-resistant lenses in several sure-to-please styles through October 1. All eyeglass and contact prescriptions are welcome at think optical.
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Think makes it easy to receive both preventative care and treatment for your vision and overall health. Our walk-in clinic treats anyone, even those who are not a think patient or do not have a primary care provider currently. To learn more about our wide-ranging healthcare services from family medicine and internal medicine to senior health and physical therapy, visit our Services page online and choose your own think medical professionals by visiting our Meet Your Doctor page.