Children's Eye Health Awareness

What Parents Should Know

August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month dedicated to providing information and awareness on eye health in children. Take our quiz to test your knowledge of eye health, congenital cataracts and the importance of eye and sports safety with kids.

So how did you do on the quiz? Review your responses against the detailed answers below. 

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

    The American Optometric Association suggests that infants should have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age with follow-ups at 3 and then 5 or 6 years. After 6, a child’s eyes should be examined every 2 years unless they have eyeglasses or contact lenses which normally require an annual examination.

    A good rule of thumb is to plan an eye exam as a back-to-school activity.

    While many schools screen children these exams are not as comprehensive as those performed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Don’t rely on them as a primary means of disease screening or visual acuity testing. 

  2. How many children in the U.S. are visually impaired?

    According to the Health Alliance Plan more than 12 million children in the U.S. have a visual impairment. For this assessment visual impairment was defined as a limitation of the eye that leads to a loss of visual acuity, limited peripheral vision, an inability to limit to look at light (photophobia), double vision (diplopia), visual distortion, or perception difficulties.

  3. Which of the following is NOT a sign of visual impairment in children? 

    Signs of visual impairment in children according to the American Optometric Association are:

    • Disinterest in reading or viewing distant objects
    • Squinting or turning the head while watching television
    • Frequent eye rubbing or blinking
    • Covering one eye
    • An eye that turns in or out
    • Double vision or
    • Family history of vision health issues

    kids eye exam

    While older children are often better at communicating symptoms, they may not always recognize an experience or situation as a vision issue. Parents or guardians should remain observant for the symptoms of eye problems in older kids. Additional symptoms of eye health issues in school age children may include:

    • Lack of comprehension or poor efficiency when performing school work
    • Experiencing discomfort, fatigue, or hyperactive/distracted behavior
    • Holding reading materials and books close to the face
    • Frequently losing track of place when reading
    • Difficulty with reading comprehension

    As for the answer to the quiz a yellowing of the eyes are symptoms of another critical health issue although not necessarily a sign of visual impairment.

  4. How many sports-related eye injuries occur each year in the United States?

    Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in American children. The National Eye Institute estimates that:

    • A U.S. emergency room visit occurs every 13 minutes because of a sports-related eye injury
    • Most eye injuries among 11 to 14 year olds occur during a sporting activity
    • Sports with the highest number of eye injuries are baseball, softball, ice hockey, racquet sports, and basketball

    In total, there are an estimated 42,000 sports-related eye injuries in the U.S. every year.

    Protective eyewear is critical for children involved in sports. In fact, the State of New Jersey requires all children with corrective glasses to wear protective goggles during sports. If your school system or government doesn’t have a policy on this, start a petition to put one in place.

  5. What is the yearly cost of sports-related eye injuries in the United States? 

    The estimated 42,000 sports-related eye injuries occurring each year in the U.S. resulting in approximately $175 to $200 million in medical bills. 

    Kids playing football in Madagascar

  6. What percentage of sports-related eye injuries can be prevented each year by wearing protective eyewear?

    Protective eye wear can prevent 90% of sports-related eye injuries. Take a lesson from NBA star Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Kareem started wearing protective eyewear in college and continued this practice throughout his NBA hall-of-fame career.

    When looking for protective sports eyewear chose those that meet ASTM standards and are made of polycarbonate or trivex material.  For more information on ASTM standards visit the Vision Council website on Sports Protection.

  7. How many children are born in the U.S. each year with cataracts?

    Contrary to popular misconceptions, cataracts aren't just a disease of the aged. In fact, children can be born with cataracts or develop them shortly after birth. While this is less common in the U.S., it is more frequent in the developing countries of Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America.

    Infant with Cataracts

    According to AAO 3 to 4 U.S. children out of 10,000 will have visually significant cataract.

  8. Which of the following is NOT a cause of cataract in newborns?

    According to EyeWiki, a majority of cases of pediatric cataracts in developed countries cannot be associated with any condition and are usually asymptomatic.  With over 15 genes involved in congenital cataract formation, many medical experts feel that a genetic mutation may be the explanation for a majority of pediatric cataract cases.

    Other links to congenital pediatric cataracts can include metabolic issues for the mother - others may be: Wilson’s disease – a rare genetic disorder that results in the accumulation of copper in the organs, hypocalcemia – low serum levels of calcium in the blood, a genetic condition such as Down’s syndrome, or also diabetes. Other causes for cataracts in babies are intrauterine infections with German measles, herpes, chicken pox, or syphilis infections. Lastly, eye trauma is associated with the development of cataracts in children.

    So what isn't a cause of cataracts? While never ruled out, no study has ever proven a link between prenatal radiation exposure and the development of cataracts at birth.

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