Tech Use Taking Toll On Kids' Eyes
Doctor: School vision exams don't catch everything
AUSTIN (KXAN.com) - One-in-four school-aged children have vision problems that can affect learning. But often, children and parents don't have a clue there's anything wrong.
Between buying school supplies, school lunches and new clothes, parents have their hands full getting kids ready to head back to class.
But there's one more thing that can start them off on the right foot.
"It's really imperative that all children receive a comprehensive vision exam before they start school," said Dr. Mary McMains.
McMains says school vision screenings only detect about 5 percent of problems and often miss identifying children who have trouble seeing up close.
The National Eye Institute also reports longer stints in front of the computer screen are leading to more eye problems at an earlier age.
"What we're seeing is that we're having more nearsightedness, more complaints of double vision, blurry vision, tired eyes, headaches," McMains said.
When Kirby Youngblood first came to her office, the third grader was experiencing several headaches a day and his school work was suffering.
"You can see there's colored letters that are thicker, erase marks -- I didn't erase very well," Kirby Youngblood said.
After eight months of special vision therapy catered to kids that often looks more like an arcade than a doctor's office, his vision has improved.
"It's like watching your child transition into someone new -- someone you always knew that they were, but something was holding them back," said Sheila Youngblood.
Because most kids don't know there's a problem, there are warning signs to look for.
"Rubbing the eyes, watery red eyes can be a factor or if you notice a child is taking their book and holding it too close and pushing it far away, squinting, turning their heads so that their nose might be blocking one eye because they're having difficulty coordinating both eyes on the page," McCains said.
A good rule of thumb is to be proactive rather than reactive.
Doctors recommend a child's first eye exam be done before they turn age one, then again at age three and another right before schools starts.