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Children's Eye Health

Eyes: More than a Window to the Soul

With tax-free week having ended and “Mommy can I have…” being heard more often than not, it means one thing…it’s that time of year again…back to school. More important than making sure your little one has the newest edition of Nike Air Force Ones, triple “A” outfits (Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle, Aeropostale), or the latest in high-tech school supplies, is making sure your children’s eyes are examined as part of the back to school checklist.

There is a lot to do in short amount of time, but these are formative years for your school-aged child, both personally and physically, and it’s important that we, as parents, do everything we can to maximize their potential, livelihood and development.

Though most children have healthy eyes, one in four (25 percent or 12 million) school-aged children either have vision problems or suffer from some degree of visual impairment. What’s more concerning is that 80 percent of preschoolers don’t receive a vision screening.

Often starting at an early age, eye conditions such as amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (cross-eyed) and refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatic), if left undetected and untreated, can damage your child’s vision and negatively impact a child’s learning ability.

Although your child may not demonstrate symptoms, it is possible for your child to have a serious vision problem without being aware of it. Some things to keep an eye on include squinting, sitting too close to the TV, complaining of headaches, poor hand-eye coordination or a lack of concentration when reading that requires the child to either point to words or skip them.

So, while “an apple a day may keep the doctor away,” it is more important that children have a preventive eye exam at the age of six months, three years, before kindergarten and once every two years thereafter, starting at the age of five.

Treatments of eye diseases are most successful when detected early,” says Dr. William J. Rand, medical director and chief surgeon at the Rand Eye Institute, a comprehensive eye care and surgical facility located at I-95 and Sample Road in Deerfield Beach. “Eye screenings conducted by professional eye care specialists (optometrist / ophthalmologist), are an effective way to detect abnormalities and can help save children from a lifetime of low vision.”

In addition to ensuring proper eyesight, comprehensive eye exams can sometimes lead to the first diagnosis of systemic diseases. As the only organ that allows physicians to directly see blood vessels, eyes are often the first to show predictive signs of diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, immune deficiencies and varying types of cancer. Allowing your eye doctor to detect and treat anomalies at the earliest possible opportunity, comprehensive eye exams, provide an additional mean to stratify risk and help identify people who may benefit from early lifestyle changes and preventive therapies.

Realizing that your eyes are more than a window to the soul, the Rand Eye Institute, in honor of September’s Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, encourages both the young, who are going back to school, and the young at heart, who graduated years ago, to make the most of education and take this time of year as an opportunity to schedule a back-to-school eye exam.

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