Parents tend to neglect to schedule eye exams until their child complains of vision issues, but the reality is many children might not know what seeing clearly looks like. By delaying eye exams and potential treatments, these kids are already behind when they start school, and relying only on school vision screenings alone widens that gap.

A recent study by VSP Vision Care, the largest not-for-profit vision benefits provider in the U.S., found that half of the people in the U.S. neglect their eyes despite 84% rating vision as their most important sense.

Here's what mamas should know about their child's vision.

When should kids visit the eye doctor?

Children should have their first eye exam with an eye doctor at 6 months old to get a sense of their vision needs. After this first exam, parents should schedule follow-up eye exams when their child is 3 years old and before they enter school at 5 years old, unless their eye doctor advises otherwise. Once in school, an eye exam should be a part of your child's annual routine.

And just like with adults, a comprehensive eye exam is important because it can detect more than just whether your child needs glasses, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, thyroid diseases and certain types of cancers

What parents should keep an eye out for

At any age, parents should keep in mind these red flags that their child's vision may be changing or worsening:

  • Frequent squinting or eye rubbing
  • Moving closer to things (like the TV or computer screen) to see it clearly
  • Closing one eye to read or holding a book unusually close
  • Reporting recurring blurry vision
  • Fidgetiness or inattentiveness, which may be a result of a child having issues seeing the board clearly

These changes can occur over time or suddenly. Think about how quickly a child's shoe size changes—it can stay the same for a year then change two sizes in three months! Children's bodies are growing and changing, and their eyes can change just as frequently.

What to ask the eye doctor

Once at your child's eye appointment, here are a few questions to bring up:

  • If my child requires corrective eyewear, what other options do we have, now or in the future, besides glasses? Is there anything I can do to prevent an even greater loss of vision?
  • What are the effects of my child using technology? Should I limit use? Is one device worst or better than others?
  • I'm worried my child may be pretending to a have vision problem or that his/her responses to your questions may not be reliable because glasses are so trendy right now. How can you tell if my child really has an issue that I need to be concerned about?
  • How important is it to wear sunglasses from an early age?

So, if it's been a while since your child has had an eye exam, or you haven't had a chance to schedule one yet, schedule an appointment for the entire family soon.

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