Photo: Essilor of America

World Sight Day takes place on Thursday, Oct. 11, marking the perfect reminder to take a proactive role in your child’s vision health. Here are a few tips from Dr. Ryan Parker, O.D., director of professional education for Essilor of America about steps that can be taken to protect your child’s sight.

Schedule an Eye Exam

First, schedule an appointment for your child with an eye care professional for a comprehensive eye exam. A school vision screening or brief examination by a pediatrician is a good start but not enough, as vision problems in children may be missed. Regular comprehensive eye exams are particularly important during childhood, when eyes are developing rapidly.

The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends a first eye examination beginning at age 6 to 12 months old, at least once between age 3 to 5 and then at least annually between ages 6 to 18. By doing, this you’ll be able to help your kids see well today and ensure vision issues are caught early.

Check for Signs of Myopia

Myopia is one of the most prevalent vision issues, especially in children. Better known as nearsightedness, myopia is a condition of the eye where close up objects appear clear, but at a distance everything becomes blurry and out of focus. Over time, myopia can put the eyes at risk for serious vision-threatening conditions and is a real and growing problem. About 42 percent of Americans ages 12-54 are nearsighted, up from 25 percent just 40 years ago.

Many kids believe blurry vision is just normal. They’ve never known anything different. But if you can spot the signs of myopia, you can help. Keep an eye out for symptoms in your children, such as squinting to see distant objects, sitting too close to the TV, holding books close when reading or issues with eye strain or headaches.  This video shows in more detail how myopia can affects a child’s life.

Use the “20-20-20” Rule for Screen Time

Many parents struggle with the popularity of smartphones and tablets. Today, children spend more time staring at screens than ever before. All that screen time can also lead to digital eye strain, resulting in tired eyes, headaches, itchy eyes, blurred vision and increased sensitivity to light. There is also research that suggests too much screen time potentially put kids at risk of developing myopia.

It’s important to strike a better balance between screen time and outdoor time. Use the “20-20-20” rule: for every 20 minutes of time on an electronic device, have them take a 20 second break and focus their eyes on something at least 20 feet away.

Play Outside Regularly

Encourage kids to put down their devices and get outside! There are a number of health benefits associated with being outside, from increasing vitamin D levels, to reduced stress. Studies have also shown that kids who play outside may be at a reduced risk of developing vision issues like myopia.

Make Sure Kids Eat a Diet That’s Healthy on the Eyes

It’s important to eat right to keep your sight! Researchers have linked eye-friendly nutrients—such as lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc—to reducing the risk of certain eye diseases. Nutritious meals with fruits, vegetables, nuts and up to 12 ounces a week of fish can help make sure kids are getting these eye-healthy nutrients.

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