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2007 Issues

When should my child have an eye exam?

05/07/2007

When should my child have an eye exam?

Visual difficulties can affect a child’s overall well-being. Children with poor visual skills often struggle in school, which, in turn, may lead to a short attention span and low selfesteem. Regular eye screenings can detect vision problems early so that corrective therapies can be initiated.

“Pediatricians are well trained to screen for eye problems,” says Heide Woo, M.D., a pediatrician at Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA. During a child’s annual physical exam, a standard eye-chart test measures sharpness of vision. A 20/20 reading means a child sees what an average person sees at a distance of 20 feet. The vision test screens for nearsightedness but does not rule out farsightedness. Nearsighted or farsighted children may need glasses or contacts to help correct blurry vision.

When to get an eye exam While a pediatrician’s eye chart can help catch common problems, it may not detect other conditions. According to Arthur Rosenbaum, M.D., chief of the pediatric ophthalmology at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA, children should receive a comprehensive exam with an ophthalmologist – a medical doctor who specializes in treating eye diseases – if there is afamily history of eye disease, such as hereditary retinal disease, large refractive errors or amblyopia. If a child has eye misalignment or has an eye that wanders, this may be a sign of strabismus, another serious condition.

Parents who notice problems in school or who are concerned about their child’s reading abilities should schedule a comprehensive eye examination. If the exam is normal, Dr. Rosenbaum suggests that a child be seen by an educational therapist or tutor to improve learning skills.

Glasses or contacts?

Glasses are usually the best option for children who need corrective lenses. While contact lenses are medically acceptable for children, Dr. Rosenbaum cautions parents to consider their child’s habits before agreeing to this option. “Most of the time, children are not mature enough until age 11 or 12 years to accept the responsibility of cleaning, storing and inserting contact lenses,” he notes. Dr. Rosenbaum adds that popular refractive surgeries are not appropriate for children, whose eyes are still growing and maturing, and should be delayed until adulthood.

Caring for young eyes

In addition to regular vision screenings and parental diligence, parents should make sure their child uses ample light for reading and wears sunglasses to protect their eyes from sun damage. When buying sunglasses for children, UV protection is the most important factor; look for glasses that offer 99 percent or 100 percent protection from UVA and UVB rays. While children today spend a great deal of time in front of a computer screen or television, Dr. Rosenbaum notes that these activities are generally not going to harm a child’s vision.

This information is provided courtesy of the pediatricians at the Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA. UCLA Healthcare pediatricians are conveniently located in your neighborhood. In addition to our Children’s Health Center in Westwood, we have offices in Brentwood, Culver City, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica, and West Los Angeles. Additional information can be found on the UCLA Healthcare website at www.healthcare.ucla.edu or by calling 1-800-UCLA-MD1 (1-800-825-2631).







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