Watch for Signs of Vision Trouble in Children
August is widely known as Child Eye Health & Safety Month. As we move from summer fun to focusing on the three Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic), watch your child’s behavior for signs of vision problems.
Common signs of vision problems in children include frequently rubbing their eyes, squinting, tilting or turning their head to look at objects, wandering eyes, or squeezing their eyes. If your child displays any of these symptoms, please schedule an appointment to have their eyes checked. These symptoms could indicate one of several common eye conditions in children - amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (crossed eyes), color deficiency (color blindness), and refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than 15 percent of all preschool children receive an eye exam and 25 percent of children and adolescents have vision impairments related to refractive errors. Early detection increases the likelihood of effective treatment of vision problems.
TRICARE covers eye and vision screening by a primary care provider at birth and approximately six months of age. Children also receive one routine eye examination by an ophthalmologist or optometrist every two years beginning at age three to six years of age. Children six and older, and retirees and their family members, who are enrolled in Prime, continue to receive routine eye exams every two years. Active Duty Family members, including family members of activated Guard and Reserve members, can also get annual eye exams.
In addition to getting regular eye exams, it is important to emphasize the importance of having clean hands before removing and handling contact lenses for older children. This will reduce the risk of developing eye infection and suffering permanent injury. Symptoms of eye infection are irritated, red eyes; light sensitivity; blurred vision and unusually watery eyes or discharge. Be sure to see a health care provider if your child experiences any of these symptoms. For more information, see the Healthy Contact Lens Wear and Care page on the CDC website.
You can also protect your child from damaging eye conditions by eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables—particularly dark leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, or collard greens, and making sure they wear protective eyewear for sports and recreation.
If your child does experience an eye injury, seek care from a provider immediately. You should not allow the child to touch or rub their eye, try to remove any debris or apply medication to the eye.
We all want our children to be happy and healthy. Use this month to learn about the many ways we can protect them from unnecessary eye conditions or injury.