Include vision exams in students’ back-to-school preparations

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Back-to-school supplies are in the stores, so it’s time to schedule health-related appointments for kids of all ages. Including a vision exam can help ensure your child will have a successful school year.

What’s the difference between a vision screening and a vision examination? Screenings can be done by a pediatrician, family doctor or other trained healthcare practitioner. The goal is to identify potential problems.

Screenings do not diagnose vision issues or diseases of the eye. Vision screenings are performed on newborns and are often part of well-child check-ups throughout childhood and adolescence.

An eye examination is more comprehensive and involves dilating the pupils and thoroughly investigating eye health, including visual acuity. The eye-health professional asks questions about the patient’s overall health, such as headaches or injuries. If needed, glasses or contact lenses are prescribed and fitted.

Even with proper eyeglasses, students often experience eye strain due to lack of sleep and long hours of computer use. Prolonged screen time can cause tired, dry, scratchy eyes because we blink less while working on a computer.

Additionally, our eyes are not meant to focus on one point for a long time. Eye health specialists recommend looking away from the screen to focus on objects in the distance. The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests the 20-20-20 rule: for every 20 minutes of screen time, look away for 20 seconds and focus on an object at least 20 feet away.

Finally, consider eye safety for your children. Provide sunglasses of high enough quality that they don’t distort your child’s vision. Be sure they are rated as filtering out both UVA and UVB sunlight.

Also consider whether your student needs to own and use safety goggles or a helmet to protect their eyes. This could be related to sports, a hobby or the work they perform.

If your family does not have an eye care professional, ask your medical clinic for a recommendation.

Ann Cochran is the health navigation coordinator in the Dallas County Public Health Department.

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