The importance of yearly eye exams for children

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) --

Class is back in session, and youngsters are diving into new subjects.

However, many children may have undetected vision problems that hamper their learning.


McKenzie's been anxious for her new 4th grade class all summer - even working on math during the school break.

"I like to solve the equations," she says, adding, "I'm going to go and be a teacher when I grow up."

Many kids get new backpacks, clothes, and haircuts for school.

Doug Zarkin of Pearle Vision says they also need thorough vision exams.

"80% of what your child is going to learn during their school year is through the eyes. And 1 in 4 children has an undiagnosed vision issue,"

Zarkin says screenings at school look for acuity - how well the eyes focus.

An exam by an eye doctor goes further.

"A dilated eye exam can diagnose things like amblyopia, which is lazy eye," he says.
It can also pick up vision issues which can be mistaken for learning disabilities.


And looking inside the eye reveals our overall health, no matter what the age.

"Diabetes, as you get older, macular degeneration. It's a great precursor in understanding what's going on with stress and high blood pressure, and high cholesterol," says Zarkin.

Parents can do their part, too, looking for possible signals of a vision problem -

* A child turning the head to the side to look at something in front of them. That could be astigmatism.

* Having a short attention span, such as shying away from tasks that use their eyes for a long time.

* Losing their place when reading - either to themselves or out loud.
* And avoiding reading, and other close activities.

More tips for parents, and fun activities for kids at Pearle Vision's Eye Squad.

The good news for kids, says Zarkin, is that those needing glasses don't have to settle for a nerdy look.


"Color, assortment, brand, style - a child has a plethora of options," he notes.

And don't forget protective eyewear, such as UV-blocking sunglasses for use year-round, and good polycarbonate glasses for sports.

"You want to make sure that not only is the vision clear, but nothing else is going on," says Zarkin.

And the earlier you find a child's vision problems, the better off they'll be in and out of school.
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