Know what to look for…
According to the American Optometric Association’s Optometric Clinical Practice Guideline, vision disorders are the fourth most common disability in the United States and the most prevalent handicapping condition during childhood. Unfortunately, the report also indicates that only 31 percent of children ages six to 16 are likely to have had a comprehensive vision examination within the past year, and only 14 percent of children under the age of six have ever had a vision examination. As such, many children may be struggling with vision issues unbeknownst to their parents.
Luckily, there are common warning signs that likely indicate vision impairment. “Warning signs include headaches, squinting, difficulty concentrating, blurry vision, an eye that turns in or out, and difficulty paying attention or keeping up in school,” says Gail Ganser, MD, Pediatric Ophthalmologist at Piedmont Eye Center. “Early detection is important because visual disorders can impair learning and social development,” she adds. “Also, the vision part of the brain is maturing until about age seven, and after that some conditions can no longer be treated leading to a permanent disability.”
Vision screenings can detect a wide range of conditions, some of which can be corrected with glasses alone. “The most common eye disorders in children are myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism, all of which can be treated with glasses,” Dr. Ganser says. “Strabismus is abnormal turning of the eye treated by glasses or surgery. In another condition, amblyopia, vision develops poorly in one eye due to it being misaligned or having a strong need for glasses. Some children have convergence insufficiency where their eyes cannot focus inward as required for reading. Dyslexia or other reading disabilities are not uncommon.”
Your child may be anxious about getting a vision screening, but Piedmont Eye Center makes the process as enjoyable as possible. “At PEC we try to make the eye exam fun,” Dr. Ganser says. “We can use symbols to check vision in a younger child, and toys and lights for other parts of the exam. Dilating drops are often used to determine if glasses are needed. Children can visit our playroom while their eyes are dilating.”
If a vision screening indicates your child does need glasses, he or she may be anxious about wearing them. Dr. Ganser and the ophthalmology team of PEC do their best to ease children’s anxiety. “If a child is nervous about glasses, I ask them if they have friends who wear them,” she notes. “I explain that they are fashionable and that I’m sure they will be able to find frames in their favorite color.”
Dr. Ganser says most children are accepting of glasses due to the abundance of functional and stylish choices available. “Years ago the choices for children’s eyewear were limited,” says Tabitha Diaz, Licensed Optician at McBride Blackburn Opticians. “Children’s glasses were an afterthought to many manufacturers. In recent years there are a lot of companies who have invested time and money into research and development to improve choices and quality for children. This makes choosing the proper frame much easier. We can provide a child with a fun, trendy frame that fits and is functional. The varieties of colors, shapes and brands make it fun for the child to choose their new glasses. Like the frames, lens materials have grown as well. There are many materials on the market now that allow the lenses to be thin and lightweight, but still safe for children.”
According to Diaz, the most popular brands of children’s glasses available at McBride Blackburn depend on the age of the child.
“For small children, including babies and toddlers, the two most popular brands are Mira Flex and Dilli Dalli,” she says. “They come in multiple shapes and sizes and the colors are bright and fun for small children. For older children and pre-teens we sell a lot of Ray Ban, Lily Pulitzer, Izod and other fashion-forward brands.”
Diaz advises parents to give their children a choice and to shop local rather than online. “My advice is to always allow the child a choice in what they are going to get,” she notes. “If they don’t love the glasses they will be less likely to wear them. Also, seek professional help. There are so many online retailers that many seem initially cheaper, but if the glasses aren’t measured and fitted properly they may be doing more harm than good. Children can be rough on glasses, that’s a given. Buying from a local optician will insure they are made correctly, and you will have a place to take them to be adjusted and repaired as needed.”
Regardless of a customer’s age, the McBride Blackburn team is committed to making the glasses-purchasing experience as fun and easy as possible. “Often I have kids who try to bend their glasses just because they want to come visit our office! We currently stock over 100 frame choices just for kids, we have a dedicated area to shop and play, and we have our own finishing lab on site so our turnaround time is faster than most,” Diaz said. “Additionally, we have personally reached out to the local pediatric ophthalmologists to find out their preferences on frame choices and measurements. By working together we are able to satisfy the parent, the child, and the doctor.”