The importance of keeping an eye on your child’s vision

WASHINGTON — Here’s another item to add to your back-to-school list: vision checks for the kids.

Experts differ on whether or not they need regular full exams by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. But there seems to be agreement that at the very least, a basic vision screening should be part of every child wellness visit.

Dr. Michael Repka, a pediatric ophthalmologist with Johns Hopkins, says pediatricians and family physicians can do a simple eye chart to check for vision acuity and alignment on a regular basis.

That’s fine for most kids, but there are times when annual full eye exams with a specialist are warranted.

“I think those exams should be done frequently in children with eye disease, with a positive family history or with any symptoms,” Repka says.

He says parents need to be alert to those symptoms, such as the dad who takes his daughter to a baseball game and realizes she is having trouble reading the scoreboard.

Another clue is genetic. Parents with nearsightedness — or myopia — are more likely to pass on the condition to their offspring, and these kids need to be monitored throughout childhood and beyond because myopia develops over time.

Babies and preschoolers also need to have their vision monitored closely, especially if there is a family history of eye problems.

As for adolescents, Repka says there is one surefire vision check: “The teen is going to get screened by motor vehicles for the driver’s license.”

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