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Children’s Vision – FAQ’s

Q: How often should children have their eyes examined?

A: According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO), infants should have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age. In Alberta, comprehensive eye examination is covered yearly until 18 years old.  Prevention and early detection of visual disorders is possible through yearly routine eye examination. 

Q: My 5-year-old daughter just had a vision screening and she passed. Does she still need an eye exam?

A: Yes. Vision screening performed by a pediatrician or school nurse are designed to detect gross vision problems. But kids can pass a screening at school and still have vision problems that can affect their learning and school performance. A comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist can detect vision problems a school screening may miss.  Also, a comprehensive eye exam includes an evaluation of your child's eye health, which is not part of a school vision screening.  

Q: What is vision therapy?

A: Vision therapy (also known as vision training) is an individualized program of eye exercises and other methods to correct vision problems other than nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. Problems treated with vision therapy include amblyopia (‘lazy eye"), eye movement and alignment problems, focusing problems, and certain visual-perceptual disorders. Vision therapy is usually performed in an optometrist's office, but most treatment plans also include daily vision exercises to be performed at home.

Q: Can vision therapy cure learning disabilities?

A: No, vision therapy cannot correct learning disabilities. However, children with learning disabilities often have vision problems as well. Vision therapy can correct underlying vision problems that may be contributing to a child's learning problems. 

 Q: Our 3-year-old daughter was just diagnosed with strabismus and amblyopia. What are the percentages of a cure at this age?

A: With proper treatment, the odds are very good. Many researchers believe the visual system can still develop better visual acuity beyond 10 years old. Depending on the type of eye turn, we can see if vision therapy, an non-invasive approach.  and/or eye muscle surgery (strabismus surgery) may be required.  

Q: My daughter (age 10) is farsighted and has been wearing glasses since age two. We think she may have problems with depth perception. How can she be tested for this, and if there is a problem, can it be treated?

A: We can perform a few different stereopsis (3-D ) test to determine if your daughter has normal depth perception. In this test, she wears 3-D glasses and looks at a number of objects in a special book or on a chart across the room. For those children with sensory overload/hypersensitivity, we also have depth perception tests that do not require the use of 3D glassses. If she has reduced stereopsis, a program of vision therapy may help improve her depth perception.

Q: We have an 9-year-old son who is nearsighted and his prescription changes very quickly. Is there anything that can be done to prevent this?

A: Currently, there is much research into myopia control, how we can slow down the progression of nearsightedness. Some studies has shown that increase sunlight exposure can be helpful. Myovision spectacle lenses and orthokeratology (or "ortho-k") contact lenses have shown success.  There is also research that suggests wearing single vision lenses that are slightly lower than the full prescription or reading glasses may slow down the progression of myopia in some children.

Q: My 7-year-old son's teacher thinks he has "convergence insufficiency." What is this, and what can I do about it?

A: Convergence insufficiency (CI) is a common learning-related vision problem where a person's eyes don't stay comfortably aligned when they are reading or doing close work. For reading and other close-up tasks, our eyes need to be pointed slightly inward (converged). A person with convergence insufficiency has a tough time doing this, which leads to eyestrain, headaches, fatigue, blurred vision and reading problems. Usually, a program of vision therapy can effectively treat CI and reduce or eliminate these problems. Sometimes, special reading glasses can also help.

Q: My son is 5 years old and has 20/40 vision in both eyes. Should I be concerned, or could this improve with time?

A: Usually, 5-year-olds can see 20/25 or better. But keep in mind that visual acuity testing is a subjective matter - during the test, your child is being asked to read smaller and smaller letters on a wall chart. Sometimes, kids give up at a certain line on the chart when they can actually read smaller letters. Other times, they may say they can't read smaller letters because they want glasses. (Yes, this happens!) Also, if your son had his vision tested at a school screening (where there can be plenty of distractions), it's a good idea to schedule a comprehensive eye exam to rule out nearsightedness, astigmatism or an eye health problem that may be keeping him from having better visual acuity.

Q: My daughter has been diagnosed with refractive amblyopia due to severe farsightedness in one eye. She just got her glasses and the lens for her bad eye is much thicker than the other lens. She complains that the glasses make her dizzy and she refuses to wear them. Can anything be done about this?

A: Yes. There are a few specialized lenses designed specifically for patients where the prescription in one eye is significantly stronger than the other. 

What these specialized lens design offer is they minimize the magnification difference between the two eyes, hence reducing nausea and dizziness. 

In addition, when the two eyes receive very different image size due to magnification difference, the brain may not be able to blend the two separate images into a single, three-dimensional one. This may hinder vision improvement. 

Keep in mind that amblyopia is a condition where one eye doesn't see as well as the other, even with the best possible correction lens in place. Simply wearing the glasses or contacts may not improve the vision in her weak eye. Usually a program of vision therapy will also be needed.

Q: Our active 1-year-old needs glasses, but he pulls them off the second they go on. How do we get him to wear his glasses?

A: In most cases, it just takes awhile for a toddler to get used to the sensation of wearing glasses. So persistence is the key. Also, you may want to put his glasses on as soon as he wakes up - this will usually help him adapt to the glasses easier.

But it's also a good idea to recheck the prescription and make sure his glasses were made correctly and are fitting properly. Today, there are many styles of frames for young children, including some that come with an integrated elastic band to help keep them comfortably on the child's head. Bring your son and the eyewear to our office. Even if you didn't purchase the glasses from us, we will be happy to give you our opinion about why your son is having a tough time wearing them and what you can do about it.

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