Back to school: tips on how to look after your child’s eyesight
Vision is one of the factors that has the greatest impact on children’s school performance. Miranza’s ophthalmologists remind us that children perceive around 85% of the information in their environment through their eyes, which is why poorly corrected visual acuity or abnormal eye movements can cause a significant delay in their learning and school performance. Specialists recommend paying special attention to children’s eye health in the event of certain visual symptoms and having an ophthalmological check-up before the start of the new school year.
Experts in paediatric ophthalmology remind us that for children to see properly it is just as important for the eye and the visual area of the brain to be healthy as it is for them to receive proper stimulation. Eye pathologies and problems that are not diagnosed and treated during the developmental stage of vision (generally up to the age of 8) can lead to chronic visual limitations in adulthood.
When should I take my child to the ophthalmologist?
Visual acuity develops from birth to the age of 8. After this age, any untreated problem, such as lazy eye, can become chronic and irreversible in adulthood. Therefore, although parents are increasingly aware of the need to take their children to the ophthalmologist, they are still hesitant about the right age to do so.
The Group’s specialists recommend a first check-up between the age of four or five, before children enter primary school, unless they notice something that worries them earlier. Moreover, it is advisable to have an annual check-up to ensure that everything is fine, and this can be considered before going back to school to confirm that the child’s vision is fine, that they can see the blackboard well and that they will be in perfect condition for the start of the school year.
Main childhood eye pathologies
Among the most common conditions, amblyopia, widely known as “lazy eye”, is the leading cause of vision loss in children and affects around 4% of children, although the vision loss it causes can persist into adulthood if not addressed early in childhood. One of the main signs of lazy eye in children is the fact that objects are brought very close to the face.
On the other hand, refractive errors (hyperopia, myopia and astigmatism) are among the most common vision problems in children, affecting 1 in 5 children. These disorders cause poor vision due to the blurring of objects on the retina, hence the image that reaches the brain is not sharp. Hyperopia occurs when the eye is shorter than normal, whereas in myopia the eye is longer than normal. Children are usually farsighted because the eye is small and shorter than in adults. As the child grows up, the eye grows with them, whereas they tend to be emmetropic, i.e. to have perfect vision when they become adults. When a child is farsighted, their refractive power tends to go down. This is what we often call physiological hyperopia, which is a hyperopia that later disappears as an adult, experts in paediatric ophthalmology explain.
The importance of a timely check-up
Wearing glasses from an early age will allow the child to have what we call normal visual development, thus avoiding having a lazy eye. Often, lazy eyes end up turning inwards or outwards. If we correct the child from an early age, we can also avoid strabismus, apart from having a lazy eye. Likewise, although in a much smaller proportion, children can suffer from congenital cataracts, childhood strabismus, congenital eyelid ptosis or congenital glaucoma.
Tips for good eye health before going back to school
Taking into account all the above, Miranza’s experts note that the start of the new school year is a good time to check children’s eyesight, so that it does not affect school performance, and recommend following a series of guidelines to ensure the best possible eye health for children:
- See a specialist between the age of four or five, before they start primary school, unless an anomaly is noticed before.
- It is advisable for children to have an annual check-up, which can be considered when they go back to school, in order to confirm that the child is seeing well and in perfect condition to start the school year.
- In order to detect anomalies, it is important to pay attention to certain visual symptoms. In children under one year of age, one of the most important signs is a lack of interest in picking up toys or objects or avoiding looking at the parents’ faces. From that age onwards, there are other symptoms of concern, such as if they move closer to the television or other screens to see better, if they show a lack of interest or have difficulties with reading, or if they suffer from headaches at the end of the day.
- Having well-lit spaces when reading, drawing or doing homework, so that they do not have to strain their eyes, will also protect their vision.
- Finally, intensifying outdoor activities and sports to avoid the use of screens and mobile devices is beneficial for improving visual health and the general health of children.