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Back-To-School: Why [Eye_Exams] Are More Important Than Ever

Since the onset of COVID-19, many children have been learning remotely through distance learning programs. While parents are concerned about their children falling behind academically, eye doctors are concerned that undiagnosed vision problems may impact the child’s school performance.

Undetected vision problems may hinder a child’s ability to learn. That’s why eye doctors strongly recommend that children undergo a thorough eye exam before the new school year begins.

While it’s tempting to rely on vision screenings provided by schools, these superficial visual acuity tests can identify only a limited number of eyesight problems. Only a comprehensive eye exam conducted by an eye doctor can accurately diagnose and address a wide range of problems related to vision and eye health.

Why Are Eye Exams Important?

Up to 80% of children’s learning is visual, so even the slightest vision problem can have a negative impact on their academic achievement. Taking a child in for an eye exam once a year will allow your eye doctor to detect and correct refractive errors like myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism, and check their visual skills, such as convergence insufficiency, binocular vision, focusing and more.

Comprehensive eye exams are the best way to detect mild and serious eye health conditions. Routine eye exams are especially important for children with a family history of eye health problems.

How Is Vision Affected By Online Learning?

The amount of time children spend looking at digital screens was already a concern in the pre-pandemic era—but the COVID pandemic has only exacerbated the issue. According to the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology, children spent twice as much time on screens during COVID-related closures than they did prior to the pandemic.

For one thing, spending prolonged periods of time on digital devices forces the eyes to work harder, making children (and adults) more susceptible to digital eye strain, one of the hallmark symptoms of computer vision syndrome. People who spend 2 or more consecutive hours staring at a screen are at higher risk of developing this condition.

Some computer vision syndrome symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Eye fatigue
  • Eye pain
  • Headaches
  • Neck and shoulder pain

These symptoms can be caused by a combination of the following factors:

  • Glare and reflections from the screen
  • Excessive time looking at a screen
  • Poor lighting
  • Poor posture
  • Screen brightness
  • Undetected vision problems

In addition to digital eye strain, several studies have found that children who spend many hours indoors doing “near work” — writing, reading and looking at computers and other digital devices — have a higher rate of myopia progression.

A study published in the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s professional journal, Ophthalmology, found that first-graders who spent at least 11 hours per week playing outside in the sunshine experienced slower myopia progression. Some researchers think that exposure to sunlight and looking at distant objects while playing outdoors might help decrease myopia progression.

While regular eye exams are essential for every member of the family, they’re especially important for those who spend a good portion of their day in front of a screen.

Don’t put off your child’s annual eye exam. Schedule an appointment with Silicon Valley Eye Physicians in Sunnyvale today!

Q&A

1. At what age should a child have an eye exam?

According to the American and Canadian Optometric Associations, it’s recommended for a child to have their first eye exam between 6-12 months of age.

Before a child starts school, they should undergo an eye exam, and every one to two years after that, based on their eye doctor‘s recommendation.

2. Does my child need an eye exam if they passed the school vision screening?

Yes! School vision screenings are superficial eye evaluations designed to diagnose a limited number of vision problems like myopia. They do not check for visual skills and other problems that may hinder your child’s academic success.

Your eye doctor will evaluate your child’s vision and eye health, along with visual abilities, including depth perception and eye tracking, to let you know whether your child’s eyes are “school-ready.”

Common Visual Symptoms to Watch for in Children

kid playing outside 640People often believe that if a child has 20/20 vision, they have perfect eyesight. This isn’t always the case. Having 20/20 eyesight refers to the ability to see clearly from 20 feet away. This doesn’t guarantee that a child has the visual skills needed to read properly, pay attention in class, writing, and other tasks required for academic success.

It may surprise you that many students who show signs of a learning difficulty actually have a vision problem. According to the National PTA, approximately 10 million school-age children suffer from vision problems that make it more difficult for them to learn in a classroom setting.

If your child is struggling in school, Dr. Jesley Johnson can determine whether the problem is related to their vision and provide a vision therapy program to help them succeed.

Vision Screenings vs Comprehensive Eye Exam

While school vision screenings might detect significant lazy eye or myopia, they miss many other vision problems, such as issues with focusing, depth perception, or eye tracking.

A comprehensive eye exam, on the other hand, checks for farsightedness, nearsightedness, astigmatism, eye focusing abilities, eye tracking, eye focusing, visual skills, binocular eye coordination, and visual processing.

What Signs Should Parents and Teachers Look For?

Below is a list of signs and symptoms indicating that a child may be experiencing vision difficulties:

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Complains of frequent headaches
  • Difficulty with comprehension
  • Complains of double or blurry vision
  • Makes errors when copying from the board
  • Reads below grade level
  • Holds reading material close to the face
  • Reverses words or letters while reading or writing
  • Loses place or skips words when reading
  • Confuses or omits small words while reading
  • Rubs eyes
  • Slow to finish written assignments
  • Frequently squints
  • Tilts head or covers one eye
  • Spelling difficulties
  • Uses finger pointing when reading

How Does Vision Therapy Help?

Vision therapy is a personalized treatment program designed to strengthen and improve your child’s visual skills.

Each vision therapy program is customized to your child’s needs and may include specialized lenses, filters, or prisms, alongside personalized eye exercises to help retrain the brain-eye connection and improve your child’s school performance.

If you think a vision problem may be affecting your child’s academic performance, vision therapy may provide them with the necessary visual skills to succeed in school.

Frequently Asked Questions with Our Vision Therapist in Sunnyvale, California

Q: How do vision problems impact learning?

  • A: A child’s vision problem can impact all aspects of learning. Often, children with vision problems are told they have a learning difficulty, when in fact, their brain isn’t properly processing what their eyes see. Vision problems can affect a child’s reading skills and comprehension, handwriting, spelling, classroom performance, concentration and attention, and visual skills.

Q: Does my child have a vision problem?

  • A: Discovering a vision problem in children can be difficult, as they may lack the verbal skills to describe what they’re experiencing or may not realize that they have a vision problem.Common indicators that your child may have a vision problem include:
    – Covering one eye
    – Behavioral problems
    – Reading avoidance
    – Difficulties with reading comprehension
    – Frequent blinking
    – Excessive fidgeting
    – Limited attention span
    – Reading below school grade level
    – Tilting head to one side



If your child displays any of these signs, make sure you set up a visit to an eye doctor at Silicon Valley Eye Physicians to evaluate their visual skills and find out whether your child could benefit from vision therapy.

Silicon Valley Eye Physicians serves patients from Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Mountain View, and Cupertino, all throughout California.

Request A Functional Visual Exam
Find Out How We Can Help You! 408-739-6200

Are Contact Lenses Safe For Young Children?

Here’s a question we often get at our practice: ‘Is my child too young for contact lenses?’ This is an important question, and the answer may surprise you.

For children with myopia (nearsightedness), contact lenses can be a convenient method of vision correction. It allows kids to go about their day without having to worry about breaking or misplacing their glasses, and enables them to freely participate in sports and other physical activities.

Some children and young teens may ask their parents for contact lenses because they feel self-conscious wearing glasses. Contact lenses may even provide children with the confidence boost they need to come out of their shell. Moreover, these days, it is very popular for children to wear single-use one-day disposable soft contacts, since there is no cleaning or maintenance involved.

Some parents may deny their child’s request for contacts due to concerns about eye health and safety. There’s no reason to worry: contact lenses are just as safe for children as they are for anyone else.

At Silicon Valley Eye Physicians, we provide children, teens, and patients of all ages with a wide variety of contact lenses. If you’re concerned about the safety of contacts for your child, we’ll be happy to explain and explore ways to ensure maximum safety, optimal eye health and comfort. To learn more or to schedule a pediatric eye exam for contact lenses, contact us today.

What Are the Risks of Having My Child Wear Contact Lenses?

A study published in the January 2021 issue of The Journal of Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics found that kids aren’t at a higher risk of experiencing contact lens complications.

The study followed nearly 1000 children aged 8-16 over the course of 1.5-3 years to determine how contact lenses affected their eye health.

The results indicate that age doesn’t have an effect on contact lens safety. In fact, the researchers found that the risk of developing infections or other adverse reactions was less than 1% per year of wear — which is comparable to contact lens wearers of other ages.

But before you decide that contact lenses are right for your child, you may want to consider whether your child is ready to wear them. During his or her eye doctor’s appointment, the optometrist may ask about your child’s level of maturity, responsibility, and personal hygiene. Since many children are highly motivated to wear contacts, they tend to display real maturity in caring for their lenses. That said, in the initial stages, parents may need to play an active role, as their child gets used to inserting and removing the new contact lenses.

It’s important to note that just as with any other medical device, contact lenses are not risk-free. Anyone who wears contact lenses has a chance of developing eye infections or other complications with contact lenses. However, when worn and cared for according to your eye doctor’s instructions, contact lenses are low-risk and perfectly safe for children and teenagers.

So, go ahead and bring your child in for a contact lens consultation! We’ll help determine if your child is ready for contacts and answer any questions you or your child may have. To schedule your child’s contact lens fitting or eye exam, contact Silicon Valley Eye Physicians in Sunnyvale today.