Children’s vision should not be overlooked

Courtesy Photo.

Summer is almost over and children are starting school again all around East San Diego County.

While we hear messages and see signs everywhere for flu shots, dental screenings, and other important back-to-school health checks, children’s vision is sometimes overlooked.  Approximately one in four school age children have some type of vision problem which can significantly affect their success in school.

According to the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health, too many children with vision disorders have unmet needs for care, which may affect their learning and development. More than that, unchecked vision problems in children can lead to permanent vision loss that may have otherwise been prevented with early screening.

Although Children’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month (August) just ended, its messages advise parents and guardians to be alert to these warning signs year-round: 

-Consistently sitting too close to the TV or holding a book too close.

-Losing their place while reading or using a finger as a guide when reading.

-Squinting or tilting their head to see better

-Frequent eye rubbing. 

-Sensitivity to light and/or excessive tearing.

-Closing one eye to read, watch TV or to see better.

-Avoiding activities such as reading or homework (requires near vision) or participating in sports or other recreational activities (requires distance vision).

-Complaining of headaches or tired eyes.

-Avoiding using a computer, because it “hurts my eyes.”

What do you do if you are concerned that your child may be one of the three percent nationwide with blindness or visual impairment? The University of California, San Diego’s Shiley Eye Institute is one of a handful of local providers dedicated specifically to helping children “see their world” by catching vision problems early. They work specifically with underserved families to make sure they have an equal chance at a healthy start in life.

During the 2018-2019 school year, the Shiley Eye Institute took their “Eyemobile” around the county to perform 12,727 vision screenings and 1,583 comprehensive eye exams. It also issued 1,112 prescriptions for glasses and identified 188 children as “high risk” for future visual impairments. Since 1999, this “eye doctor on wheels” has screened more than 230,000 local children.

Even with the many children and families helped, there are still thousands who need our help. As you and your family get back into the swing of the school year, schedule an eye exam with either your local optometrist or ophthalmologist. If you or someone you know struggles with accessing their healthcare, there are options. Free screenings will be available at the Grossmont Healthcare District’s Kids Care Fest, courtesy of the UC San Diego Shiley Eye Institute and its Eyemobile.

Kids Care Fest takes place this year at the Lemon Grove Recreation Center located at 3131 School Lane in Lemon Grove, Saturday, October 5 from 9:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M.  It is open to the public, and no registration is necessary. I hope you will consider joining us.

About Michael A. Emerson

A Registered Ophthalmic Dispenser, Michael A. Emerson, RDO, FNAO, has served the community as a Grossmont Healthcare District board member since May 2008. He is also certified by the State Board of Medical Quality Assurance of the California Medical Board and has owned Hart Optical Company of La Mesa since 1987.