With summer fast approaching, we all have our annual checklist in mind. It might include helping children pack for camp or making sure that the propane tanksare filled for the many planned barbecues. But what about an eye examination? Summer is the perfect time to schedule a visit with the eye doctor for the whole family. While it’s always fun to pick out a new pair of sunglasses for the warm weather, it is also important to ensure that our children are set with the best vision possible before their first day back in school in just a few short months.
It is estimated that almost a quarter of all children in the United States have an undetected visual problem and up to 60 percent of visual deficits are missed at vision screenings. Even more surprising, 48 percent of parents with children under the age of 12 have not taken their child for an eye examination. Despite the fact that the United States prides itself on advances in health care, the public does not seem to be informed about the importance of regular eyecheckups. Not only do these exams evaluate the need for glasses and check the health of the eyes, they also assess the ability of the eyes to focus, track objects and work together as a team. Deficits in these skills can lead to eye strain and be a cause of reduced performance in school and work.
Additionally, if certain visual problems are not caught and treated at a young age, they can lead to a “lazy eye” with permanently reduced vision. As such, it is imperative that children have a comprehensive eye examination at a young age. The recommendation is that a child should see the eye doctor ideally as an infant but then again at age 3 and once more before starting kindergarten or first grade. After that, he or she should be seen by the eye doctor every two years, unless visual or ocular complaints are expressed in the interim.
The need for preventive eye examinations is not limited to children. It has been reported that over 12 million adults need some sort of vision correction but do not have one. I have seen numerous patients over the past years come in for a routine eye examination insisting that their vision is perfect with their current glasses. Upon testing, they are surprised to learn that their vision is considered borderline even for passing a vision test at the DMV. Oftentimes, the gradual change in vision is just that: very gradual and therefore unnoticed. Regular checkups are necessary to assess whether it is time to update a pair of distance or reading glasses. Even when the vision remains unchanged, numerous systemic health conditions and medications can have an impact on one’s ocular health. As such, biennial eye examinations maintain their importance for adults as well, with the recommendation changing to annual visits for those over the age of 60and those “at risk” for eye problems. “At risk” individuals include (but certainly are not limited to) people with diabetes, high blood pressure, a family history of eye diseases and contact lens wearers.
So while most of us wouldnot think twice about scheduling an annual visit to the primary care physician or the dentist for ourselves and our children, let’s try to remember that preventive eye examinations are equally important. With the next school year only a few weeks away, now is the perfect time to bring the entire family in for an eye exam!
Shoshana Pinsky is a local optometrist who enjoys working with both the pediatric and adult population. Feel free to call 201-894-1400
By: Shoshana Pinsky, OD