Just when you thought you had everything you needed to get your children off to a successful school year, it's likely one thing was overlooked: a vision test.

According to the VSP Consumer Eyecare and Eyewear Survey of 4,000 Americans, 76% of children under the age of 5 years have not had a comprehensive eye exam.

"While most parents probably assume that vision screenings provided by pediatricians and school nurses are enough, those screenings are nowhere near as exhaustive as the comprehensive eye exams that optometrists and ophthalmologists provide," said James Short, OD, of VSP Vision Care sponsors of the study in a written statement.

"Before children enter school, an eye doctor should examine the eyes for signs of astigmatism, nearsightedness, farsightedness and also examine the structure of the eye for tell-tale signs of serious diseases affecting more American kids each year, including diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol," he continued.

Take Precautions

Concern for your child's eyesight shouldn't end with the classroom. Take precautions when out in the sun. By now, it's second nature to slather on sunscreen, and while 68% of adults protect their eyes with sunglasses, less than 30% of children wear sunglasses. The long term effect of sun damage to your eyes includes macular degeneration, cataracts, and pterygium, a growth on the eye that can cause impaired vision.

Add to this the copious amounts of time the average American child spends in front of a television and computer screen (over four hours a day for 67% of 6- to 11-year-olds and 73% of 12- to 17-year-olds), which can cause blurred vision, eye strain, headaches, as well as neck and shoulder pain.

Simple Sight Saving Steps

Don't wait for a parent-teacher conference to hear your little one is squinting at the blackboard. VSP Vision Care suggests you take the following steps to take when it comes to your child's eye sight:

  • Start early with eye exams, by at least 6 months of age. Visit the eye doctor again at ages 3 and 5, and annually after that.
     
  • Be alert for symptoms of poor visions problems such as headaches, hand-eye coordination issues, or problems focusing.
     
  • Significant vision problems should be ruled out before behavioral medications are prescribed.
     
  • To avoid Computer Vision Syndrome, remember the 20-20-20 rule: take a break every 20 minutes and spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away.
     
  • Keep bright lighting overhead to a minimum, for example a desk lamp should shine on your desk, not you. Try to keep window light off to the side, rather than in front of or behind you. Close your window blinds and use an anti-glare screen protector.
     
  • Ask your eye doctor for a pair of glasses specifically designed for computer use that can help lessen the symptoms of CVS.
     
  • Keeping sunglasses on children. This is a tough one, but it will be easier if you try to make it fun. Buy glasses with bright colored frames made of flexible materials.
     
  • Children may not appreciate an eyewear cord, but they are less likely to lose or damage their sunglasses during a day at school or on the playground if they're attached.

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