An epidemic of mypoia (shortsightedness) is sweeping Asia. 80 to 90 percent of students are leaving school afflicted by the disease and a small percentage of these (10-20%) will have high myopia which could result in blindness. Unlike the preventative measures we take with the dentist, we generally only go to the optometrist when we think we may need glasses. With children, it’s difficult to tell whether they have trouble with their vision as they may just get used to the blur and not vocalize their issues. Luckily, there are telltale signs that can help you to identify when your child needs to take a trip to the optometrist.
Eyestrain can cause headaches, red eyes and excessive tearing. Children who are reading may rub their eyes repeatedly. Squinting, covering an eye or moving further from or closer to the object may indicate that your child cannot see the object clearly. If your child exhibits any of these symptoms regularly, you must have their eyes checked.
Wanting to sit really close to the television or computer screen and sensitivity to light are also important indicators that your child may have a visual impairment.
If your child exhibits a short attention span for their age or struggles with hand-eye coordination, it may be a sign of poor eyesight. You can also test your child’s reading to ensure that they are able to recognize letters. If they hold the book too close or too far away, rub their eyes, have trouble concentrating, mix up letters that look similar to each other (like a C and an O), they may have trouble seeing the text clearly.
When to get your child tested
Babies should have their eyesight tested just after being born and then again at 6 months. Test your child’s eyesight every two to three years by taking them to a registered optometrist. Myopia is mainly caused by a lack of sunlight and by too much reading and computer time. Ensure that your children eat a healthy diet and get outside for at least two hours every day (weather permitting).
When students are studying or working on the computer for hours at a time, getting up and walking around can really help their posture and give their eyes a chance to rest. Have your students look up into the middle and far distance regularly (getting them to look out the window at things which are nearby and far away) helps to keep eye muscles toned and healthy.
Too much of anything is not good for your children, so make sure that they have a healthy balance of TV, computer, study and outdoor time, healthy meals and regular exercise. If your child already wears glasses, have their eyes checked annually for changes in their prescriptions.