Living Columns & Blogs

Vision exams are an important part of back-to-school prep

Are the kids already back to school? Along with your back-to-school checklist of school supplies, you might have felt like you needed a checklist for appointments — dental, physical, vision — even more if your kids are in extracurriculars!

Maybe the appointment with the eye doctor got a little delayed, and if it did, don’t worry — the best time to get your kids back-to-school eye exam (or first exam!) is now. There’s no time like the present, and with the American Optometric Association’s recommendation of the first comprehensive eye exam beginning at 6 months of age, there really is no time “too early.”

The reason the back-to-school season is so emphasized with kids’ vision is because learning is such a visual process. If a student is struggling in school, an eye exam to determine if vision plays a role is key. This is a similar concept in sports — depth perception typically fully develops by age 8, and 7-8 years old is typically a great time to engage in vision therapy when necessary.

With a new school year, new interests are often in play as well — new clothes, new supplies, maybe even a new school. Kids are often interested in contact lenses, whether for cosmetic purposes, or for sports or other extracurriculars. My typical recommendation is that kids can pursue contact lenses once they are mature enough to manage brushing teeth. It’s important, of course, to maintain hygiene and discuss appropriate lens types and solutions with your child’s eye care provider.

For young athletes, making sure to have sports goggles or a band to hold glasses in place, and extra contact lenses and supplies if necessary, is important. Avoiding an eye injury is a great benefit to sports goggles — and having a fresh pair of contacts in the sports bag is definitely better than the great search for a lost one on a gym floor.

Just as kids outgrow their clothing, their eyes are changing over the course of childhood as well. If your child’s exam results in a large change to become more nearsighted, or a consistent moderate change that isn’t leveling off, you may hear about ways to help slow down the changes occurring to his or her vision. Right now, the most common methods used are specific designs of contact lenses, though eye drops are being studied as well. These methods are typically referred to as “myopia control,” and the goal is to maintain a larger range of clear vision, decrease risks that come with higher refractive prescriptions, and help maintain the eligibility for vision correction surgeries later in life.

If you have questions about what to bring to an eye appointment, calling your eye care provider’s office ahead of time is a great plan. It’s always helpful to bring the current or old pair of glasses and either contact lens boxes or the previous contact lens prescription.

It’s easy to “see” why back-to-school is such an exciting time. Make those appointments to be sure your kids are seeing their best this fall.

Abigail G. Harsch is an optometrist at Nittany Eye Associates.