I remember when I first got my glasses. I was in Grade 4 and I spent a lot of time walking up to sharpen my pencil because what I was really doing was memorizing information on the blackboard to write down at my desk because I couldn’t see it otherwise! Because times were different back then, when my teacher realized I couldn’t see, she sent me to the Health Nurse who did an eye exam with me (I can’t believe how much times have changed — the idea of having an eye test at school is a bit baffling these days!).
Because of my own experiences, I know how important having eye exams when growing up can be! I really like the idea of booking the exam to correspond with the start of the new school year because it is an easy way to remember to do it!
I recently had the chance to ask some questions of an eye care professional about children’s eye care.
Question 1: How can uncorrected vision affect a child’s ability to perform well in school?
This is an excellent question and actually one that ties in well to our most recent research conducted at the IRIS location in Guelph (Ontario) which looked at exactly this topic. We examined 50 children with reading based learning disabilities and 50 age-matched control children without learning difficulties. We looked at both the reading speed and accuracy (using a goggle with mounted infra-red cameras that record the child reading in real time, called a Visagraph III) in addition to doing a full eye examination and binocular vision work-up to see what differences existed between the two groups. Interestingly, the reading impaired group had much more far-sightedness and also had significantly higher amounts of eye co-ordination issues. The main symptoms present in uncorrected far-sightedness and binocular vision dysfunction will be (i) frequent rubbing of the eyes (ii) easily distracted from near work (iii) closing one eye when reading (iv) headaches and (v) difficulty tracking when reading (i.e. loses place a lot). Of course, such issues will usually manifest as learning difficulties in school and such symptoms should prompt a full eye examination in addition to a binocular vision work-up. More information can be found at www.covd.org and www.visionhelp.com on this topic. I have actually had personal experience with vision based learning difficulties as a child and was actually told I would be lucky to finish high school (twice!) prior to the issue being treated. My wife and I last week welcomed the newest addition to our family (my first daughter) and as all parents know, there is nothing more precious than your children. They deserve proper eyecare and no child should have to go through vision based learning difficulties in Canada – period.
Question 2: What are some tips on how to choose proper lenses for protecting kids’ eyes?
This is always a tough question as on one hand, we want to ensure good vision yet on the other hand we want to ensure that the lenses adequately protect the eyes. Typically, the eyecare industry has preferred polycarbonate lenses for children as they are extremely impact resistant (almost bullet proof in fact). The problem with such lenses is that the optics are simply not that great which leads to poorer vision quality. However, Nikon Canada have recently launched a lens (Nikon Junior) which has much better optics but managed to maintain very good impact resistance (not quite as good as polycarbonate, but still meets the USA FDA requirements). In terms of lens coatings it is of course vital to have good quality anti-scratch coatings anti-glare coatings in addition to ensuring a solid warranty from your eyecare professional. Sun protection for children’s eyes is an often over-looked issue, and given that our pupils are largest when we are children, and children spend more time outdoors, kids actually get up to 3 times more UV exposure. By the age of eighteen, 80% of your total lifetime UV exposure limit has been used up. In Canada, where we have large amounts of UV exposure (sun during summer, glare from snow in winter) an easy solution to this problem is transition lenses (clear lenses that darken when exposed to UV) or quality sunglasses. One has to be careful with children’s sunglasses as many may indicate 100% UV protection but may not actually do so. Consulting an eye care professional can ensure you purchase the right type of sunglass and/or test the ones you have for proper UV protection.
Question 3: What are some of the top eyewear fashion trends for 2012?
When It comes to Children’s eyewear, we are seeing a complete reflection of Adult eyewear fashion (only proportionately smaller!). You can find chunky acetate (plastic) frames in bright and dark colours, lightweight colourful metal frames with cutouts as well as creative whimsical temple designs. Sunglasses also range from sporty to fashion at palatable price points to ensure your child is getting the protection they need.
Thanks again to Dr. Quaid for sharing his expertise! So, if you’ve been putting off an eye exam for your child (or yourself for that matter!), don’t forget how important it is to take care of your eyes because it can make a huge difference!