Back to School Eye Exams

Dr. Russel Lazarus, July 14, 2021

The American Optometric Association (AOA) reports that 75% of school vision screenings miss vision problems, and 61% of children with vision problems never see an eye doctor.

Since the start of COVID-19, many children have been learning remotely.  While parents are understandably concerned that their children will fall behind academically at school, eye professionals are concerned that undiagnosed visual disorders will have an impact on the child’s performance in school.

Undiagnosed vision problems

Are your child’s eyes ‘school ready’?

Imagine trying to learn with blurry vision, eye strain or even headaches?

Undiagnosed vision problems can impede a child’s ability to learn, which is why eye doctors highly recommend that children have a comprehensive eye exam before the start of the new school year.

While it may be tempting to rely on school-provided vision screenings, these simple visual acuity tests can detect only a few  vision problems, such as nearsightedness (myopia). They offer no reassurance that your child’s eyes are ready to handle the challenges of school and homework.

During a full eye exam, an eye doctor can assess a child’s vision and eye health, as well as visual skills like depth perception and eye tracking, and will tell you whether your child’s eyes are “school-ready.”

How vision is affected by online learning

While the amount of time children spent staring at digital displays was already an issue before COVID-19,   the pandemic has only made matters worse.

Children have been found to spend twice as much time on screens during COVID-related closures than they did before the pandemic, according to the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology (2020).

For one thing, staring at a digital screen for long periods of time strains the eyes, making children and adults more prone to digital eye strain, often known as computer vision syndrome..

Digital eye strain

Students who stare at a screen for two hours or longer are at an increased risk of developing this condition.

Digital eye strain symptoms may include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Eye pain
  • Eye fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Shoulder and neck pain

These symptoms above can also be exacerbated by these issues below:

  • Poor posture
  • Poor lighting
  • Overly bright digital screens
  • Undetected vision problems
  • Excessive time looking at a screen
  • Reflections and glare from a screen

Aside from digital eye strain, multiple studies have revealed that children who spend a lot of time indoors performing “near tasks” like writing, reading, and gazing at computers and other digital devices experience  a faster rate of myopia progression.

According to a study published in 2020 by the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s professional journal, Ophthalmology, first-graders who spent at least 11 hours per week outside in the sunshine had a slower progression of myopia.

Although the reason behind this is unknown, some experts believe that the sun’s brightness plays a role, while others think that looking  at distant objects can help prevent myopia progression.

If you’re concerned about your child’s eyes being ‘school ready’ contact an eye doctor near you.

Find an eye doctor near you

Why are comprehensive eye exams important?

Whether they study in a classroom or online, children can benefit from eye exams to ensure that they learn effectively.

Vision accounts for up to 80% of a child’s learning.

Therefore, even the tiniest eyesight issue can have a severe impact on their academic performance.

By taking your child in for an eye checkup once a year, your eye doctor can diagnose and treat refractive errors including hyperopia (farsightedness), myopia (nearsightedness) and astigmatism, as well as difficulties with their visual abilities, such as convergence insufficiency and focusing.

Comprehensive eye exams are the most effective way to detect both minor and major eye problems. Children with a family history of vision difficulties should get their eyes examined once a year, or as recommended by their eye doctor.

Regular eye exams are important for everyone in the family, but especially for those who spend a significant amount of time reading, studying or are in front of a computer screen.

When should a child have eye exams?

The American and Canadian Optometric Associations recommend that a child’s first eye exam take place between 6-12 months of age.

Following that eye exam the eye doctor will recommend when the next eye exam is to occur and it is vital to follow the eye doctor’s advice.

At a minimum, a child should have eye exams during their infant years and before starting school, and then every one to two years after that.

To ensure your child is ‘school ready’ schedule an eye exam with an eye doctor near you.