The Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians is alerting parents that one-in-four children has an undiagnosed vision problem and encouraging them to schedule comprehensive eye exams before the start of the school year.
Untreated vision conditions often lead to seemingly mysterious conditions like frequent headaches. They are also linked to everything from behavioral problems to poor performance in class to an inability to complete homework.
While many parents assume that a simple vision screening at school or in a pediatrician's office can identify most vision problems, that is not the case. Most vision screenings test for basic distance visual acuity (ie "does a child have 20/20 vision?") without also testing the wide variety of vision conditions and problems that affect learning and school-work. Eye doctors are using the back-to-school season to remind parents that comprehensive vision exams are the best way to identify vision problems.
"It's important for parents not to neglect this aspect of their children's health, because the consequences can be really profound," said OAOP President Dr. David Hall.
"Optometric physicians treat countless children every year that are falling behind in school or having difficulty reading, not because they can't learn, but because they can't see properly," said Hall. "We can get a lot of those kids back on track, but it all starts with a comprehensive eye exam."
Eye doctors also warn that schools today are increasingly using technology for learning that can strain vision. Smart phones, tablets and computers can cause a condition known as "Computer Vision Syndrome," or CVS. Symptoms of CVS include eye strain, headaches, fatigue, burned or tired eyes, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain. Nationally, parents report that two-thirds of all children use devices for homework that can cause CVS.
"Tablets and computers are great learning devices, and they are here to stay," said Hall. "They can also really strain the eyes, especially for children. It's important for parents to make their children take breaks, and follow the 20-20-20 rule: when using technology or doing near work, take a 20-second break, every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away.