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Back-To-School: Why [Eye_Exams] Are More Important Than Ever

Since the onset of COVID-19, many children have been learning remotely through distance learning programs. While parents are concerned about their children falling behind academically, eye doctors are concerned that undiagnosed vision problems may impact the child’s school performance.

Undetected vision problems may hinder a child’s ability to learn. That’s why eye doctors strongly recommend that children undergo a thorough eye exam before the new school year begins.

While it’s tempting to rely on vision screenings provided by schools, these superficial visual acuity tests can identify only a limited number of eyesight problems. Only a comprehensive eye exam conducted by an eye doctor can accurately diagnose and address a wide range of problems related to vision and eye health.

Why Are Eye Exams Important?

Up to 80% of children’s learning is visual, so even the slightest vision problem can have a negative impact on their academic achievement. Taking a child in for an eye exam once a year will allow your eye doctor to detect and correct refractive errors like myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism, and check their visual skills, such as convergence insufficiency, binocular vision, focusing and more.

Comprehensive eye exams are the best way to detect mild and serious eye health conditions. Routine eye exams are especially important for children with a family history of eye health problems.

How Is Vision Affected By Online Learning?

The amount of time children spend looking at digital screens was already a concern in the pre-pandemic era—but the COVID pandemic has only exacerbated the issue. According to the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology, children spent twice as much time on screens during COVID-related closures than they did prior to the pandemic.

For one thing, spending prolonged periods of time on digital devices forces the eyes to work harder, making children (and adults) more susceptible to digital eye strain, one of the hallmark symptoms of computer vision syndrome. People who spend 2 or more consecutive hours staring at a screen are at higher risk of developing this condition.

Some computer vision syndrome symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Eye fatigue
  • Eye pain
  • Headaches
  • Neck and shoulder pain

These symptoms can be caused by a combination of the following factors:

  • Glare and reflections from the screen
  • Excessive time looking at a screen
  • Poor lighting
  • Poor posture
  • Screen brightness
  • Undetected vision problems

In addition to digital eye strain, several studies have found that children who spend many hours indoors doing “near work” — writing, reading and looking at computers and other digital devices — have a higher rate of myopia progression.

A study published in the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s professional journal, Ophthalmology, found that first-graders who spent at least 11 hours per week playing outside in the sunshine experienced slower myopia progression. Some researchers think that exposure to sunlight and looking at distant objects while playing outdoors might help decrease myopia progression.

While regular eye exams are essential for every member of the family, they’re especially important for those who spend a good portion of their day in front of a screen.

Don’t put off your child’s annual eye exam. Schedule an appointment with Eye Trends in Conroe today!

Q&A

1. At what age should a child have an eye exam?

According to the American and Canadian Optometric Associations, it’s recommended for a child to have their first eye exam between 6-12 months of age.

Before a child starts school, they should undergo an eye exam, and every one to two years after that, based on their eye doctor‘s recommendation.

2. Does my child need an eye exam if they passed the school vision screening?

Yes! School vision screenings are superficial eye evaluations designed to diagnose a limited number of vision problems like myopia. They do not check for visual skills and other problems that may hinder your child’s academic success.

Your eye doctor will evaluate your child’s vision and eye health, along with visual abilities, including depth perception and eye tracking, to let you know whether your child’s eyes are “school-ready.”

 

4 Ways COVID Precautions Can Affect the Eyes

There is no question that mask-wearing and social distancing have helped slow the spread of COVID-19, but eye doctors say these precautions may be contributing to the rise in cases of computer eye strain, dry eye syndrome and other eye conditions.

Since the onset of COVID-19, eye doctors are seeing more cases of:

1. Dry Eye Syndrome

While wearing a mask is essential to prevent the spread of COVID-19, masks can also cause uncomfortable dry eye symptoms.

The constant flow of exhaled air that flows through the top of a mask can dry out our eyes, causing symptoms like redness and irritation.

To minimize the problem, take frequent breaks from mask-wearing, if at all possible, and choose masks with a pliable nose piece to help prevent the air from escaping through the top of the mask and into your eyes.

In addition to mask-related dry eye, many people who work from home have developed dry eye as a result of increased screen time.

According to research, when working on a computer or even scrolling through social media on our smartphones, we tend to blink less often, so our eyes are less lubricated.. .

2. Computer Vision Syndrome

Working and studying at home due to COVID restrictions has caused a significant increase in digital device usage, and a condition eye doctors call computer vision syndrome. Symptoms include dry, itchy burning eyes (dry eye syndrome) as well as headaches and focusing difficulties.

3. Myopia

With all the time spent working and learning from home and the drastic increase in screen time due to COVID lockdowns, it’s not a surprise that eye doctors have seen an increase in the number of patients with worsening myopia.

Studies have found that children who spend a significant amount of time doing “near work” like reading and looking at digital devices have a greater risk of developing myopia and experiencing myopia progression than children who spend much more time playing outdoors.

Encourage your children to spend at least 2 hours a day in the sunshine while wearing sunglasses and sunscreen.

4. Eye Injuries

Eye injuries and accidents, most commonly corneal abrasions (scratches) have increased during COVID lockdowns, as more people have tackled home improvement projects.

Unfortunately, many of these do-it-yourselfers didn’t wear protective eyewear.

Common symptoms of eye injuries include pain, tearing, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, blood in the eye and even vision loss in severe cases.

It is important to seek immediate treatment if you or anyone in your household has sustained an eye injury, to prevent vision loss.

What can you do to protect your eyes and vision?

    1. Hydrate. Hydration is not only important for keeping your body healthy and energized, but can also keep your eyes moist and well lubricated.
    2. Artificial tears. These eye drops can help to replenish your tears and lubricate your eyes to prevent dry eye from occurring.
  • Practice the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds. This will help your eye muscles to relax and prevent eye strain.
  1. Blink frequently. It is important to consciously remind yourself to blink often while you are working at your computer. Also, be sure to close your eyes completely upon blinking to give your eyelids a chance to properly spread your tears across the surface of your eye.
  2. Increase your Omega-3 intake. Omega-3 fatty acids that can be found in fish oil and certain nuts have been shown to reduce inflammation— a common cause of dry eye. If you want to be sure you are getting enough omega in your diet, ask your doctor about starting an omega-3 supplement.

If you notice any changes in your eye health or vision, call Eye Trends in Conroe today to schedule an appointment for an eye exam and to discuss how you can protect your eyes and vision from the effects of COVID.

At Eye Trends, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 936-206-7366 or book an appointment online to see one of our Conroe eye doctors.

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