Don't Overlook The Need for Back-To-School Eye Exams

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Eye Exam for Children

A perfect score on a school eye exam doesn't rate 20/20.

"The problem with screening children in school is that it is a threshold test," said Dr. Richard A. Lewis, a professor of ophthalmology, pediatrics, medicine and molecular and human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "A child can have 20/25 or 20/30 vision and still pass, and a vision problem is not necessarily detected early."

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Children usually are screened when they reach school age. The tests are subjective, meaning that children must be verbal and must be able to distinguish letters, numbers or figures in order to pass. In comparison, a complete medical eye exam by a professional tests for depth perception, peripheral vision, and astigmatism.

"Starting at age five, children should be screened for an eye exam by a professional annually," Lewis said. "However, if a parent notices behavior such as a child holding an object unusually close to the face, or sitting directly in front of the television, it might be time to make an eye appointment."

Signs that teachers can look for include squinting, or a child frequently coming to the front of the classroom to see the board, or lack of interest in reading because he can't see the books well. Sometimes a child may simply seem to be "daydreaming" because he cannot see the board, so he appears not interested in the material. Parents who have other children who wear glasses need to watch siblings for signs of poor vision, since family history may also play a role in the recurrence of vision problems.

"If one child has nearsightedness, parents should carefully monitor other children for signs that might indicate the need for corrective lenses," said Lewis.

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