Sight is one of our five senses, and it’s crucial to our development and our ability to function properly. We must look after our eye health very early on, and throughout life. Discomfort can occur from early childhood and, if not detected, can progress badly and lead to vision problems and learning difficulties. Teens and adults require the same eye care over the years as our eyes are extremely strained at school, at work, and at play…so we must protect them.
Screen for vision problems
Children, increasingly younger, have been using devices for playing games or for learning. This year, given the more hours spent at home because of the pandemic, it wouldn’t be surprising if more children, especially teenagers, experience greater eye problems.
In general, nearly 25% of school-aged children suffer from visual problems, warns the Association des optométristes du Québec. These problems are not always detected by parents.
But eye health must be taken seriously at any age. Periodic eye exams can detect vision problems, possible illnesses, such as diabetes, or conditions, like cataracts, which most often occur with age.
Recognize the symptoms
Be on the lookout for discomforts and behaviours. If your child is rubbing their eyes, has a headache, experiences dizziness, nausea, or has burning or tired eyes...then it’s time to consult an eye care professional.
Behaviours may also reveal any potential problems that could affect their academic success. Your child may be experiencing difficulty seeing if they squint, tilt their head, hold their book too close to their face or experience difficulty reading, or they always sit too close to the TV. In these cases, a visual acuity test can tell us a lot.
Eye exams from the age of 1
For optimal eye development, an eye exam should be performed at an early age. Optometrists recommend a first examination around the age of 1 and another at 3 or 4, before entering kindergarten. Eye disorders can be detected even in toddlers and very young children, and they don’t need to know how to read or recognize letter, as optometrists have a choice of tests available to them that are appropriate for your child’s age.
In adulthood, an eye exam is recommended every two years. It often happens that difficulties appear near the end of our 40s. We begin to notice small changes during our evening reading. Or our vision is less clear when driving, and we no longer have the same “focus” as before when driving at night or in more extreme weather conditions. Wearing a very good pair of sunglasses is recommended to lessen the blinding effects of the rays.
Tests at the optometrist will detect abnormalities, such as myopia or astigmatism, and disorders particularly affecting older people, including as glaucoma or cataracts, well before they appear. Many other lesser-known diseases are sometimes discovered through eye exams, such as diabetes, hypertension or even certain cancers.
Protect yourself from screen light and the sun
Be wary of blue light from electronic devices. It is a cause of eye fatigue and headaches. The solutions are to decrease the display intensity on devices and to reduce children’s screen time.
Device overuse also leads to increased dry eye, a degenerative disease that usually affects older people but is seen increasingly more frequently in younger people. Its symptoms are red eyes, burning eyes, unstable vision, or the sensation of having dry eyes. If your teenager needs glasses, at least make them happy by buying a fashionable frame that suits their tastes as much as possible!
Sunlight is 100 times more intense than that of electronic devices. Adults and children should wear sunglasses outdoors and even more so during prolonged exposure, as ultraviolet rays can damage the retina, especially that of small children. Choose quality eyewear that specifically protects against UV rays. Remember that children get on average three times more radiation exposure per year than adults. You should know that there are ophthalmic and photochromic lenses available that filter blue light and UV rays.
The exam is free and paid for by the RAMQ for children under 18 and for people over 65.
Any questions? Don’t hesitate to consult an optometrist.