Twenty-Five Percent of Children Have a Vision Problem

Before that first bell of the school year rings and while you’re checking off your back-to-school list, the Wisconsin Optometric Association encourages you to have your child’s eyes examined. According to the Vision Counsel of America, one in four children has a vision problem that can interfere with learning.

“I had three kids yesterday that were brought in basically for what parents call routine eye exams,” said Dr. Jeff Sarazen, an optometrist at Envision Eye Care in Wausau. “All three had undetected vision problems that were moderately severe too. It’s very common,” he said.

Dr. Sarazen says nearsightedness typically shows up in children around 2nd or 3rd grade, but farsightedness can become a problem much earlier, at age 3 or 4. Children can also have other vision problems, including one of two types of lazy eye or congenital cataracts.

He suggests children have their first eye exam between the ages of 6 and 9 months, which can be done by their pediatrician, but he recommends a formal eye exam with an optometrist before a child enters kindergarten. Children who have vision problems need to be seen annually, and those without should be tested every two years.
Early detection and treatment of eye problems is crucial for a child’s future.

“Eighty percent of learning is through vision, so if your vision is failing or you’re struggling with vision, you’re gonna have difficulty learning,” Dr. Sarazen said. “It can really slow down their learning process in the classroom.”

Even more troubling, young children with vision problems can’t articulate that there’s something wrong, because it’s the only reality they’ve ever known. Most schools perform eye exams for children in 2nd grade, but Dr. Sarazen says they don’t check for farsightedness or the health of the eyes.

Parents and teachers can look for signs of vision troubles in kids including rubbing their eyes, being disruptive in the classroom, or having trouble focusing and daydreaming. Dr. Sarazen says some children with vision problems are misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, which carry similar symptoms.

Because poor vision is genetic, many children whose parents wear glasses or contacts will follow in their footsteps, another indicator to be aware of.

A routine eye exam for a child costs between $80 and $140, and glasses can cost less than $50 to more than several hundred dollars. Insurance doesn’t always cover vision. If your family needs help paying for treatment, you can reach out to Vision USA, which is an organization that provides free eye exams to low income Americans.



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Liz Hayes
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