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Eye impairments tricky to catch among children

St. Joseph News-Press - 8/4/2022

Aug. 4—It's Children's Eye Health and Safety Month, and almost 7% of children in the U.S. under age 18 have been diagnosed with a vision condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vision issues often can go unnoticed in a child's early life because the symptoms aren't always easy to notice. That's why it's important to start regular checkups early, said Dr. Steven Rosenak, an optometrist at Optical Options in St. Joseph.

"It can be as early as one year with infants to make sure they're on track and work with their pediatrician, and the pediatricians do a great job of establishing the health of a child," he said. "But usually, yearly is what we recommend for parents to have their children come in for examinations."

Being able to spot vision issues is also much about how children act in everyday situations. An inability to identify road markers or late reaction times in athletics can point to children needing glasses or having some sort of visual impairment, Rosenak said.

"Sometimes the child gets more prone to car sickness because their vision is not clear," he said. "That was an indicator I've seen a lot."

Many vision issues are caught as children reach third, fourth or fifth grade because that's often when changes accelerate, Rosenak said.

"They might be having a little bit of nearsighted or farsightedness, but it starts to accelerate during that period and that's when they get caught on school screenings," he said. "So that's usually the normal trend that parents identify is that the child failed their eye test at school with the nurse."

Glaucoma is a visual impairment that can be especially concerning. It's classified as "a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve" and can lead to blindness, according to the Mayo Clinic.

There are few indicators associated with glaucoma, but a feeling of pressure on the eye and mapping the eye's field of view can hint at the issue, Rosenak said.

"Glaucoma has been called, in layman's term, 'the sneak thief of vision,' where you don't know you have glaucoma," he said. "You don't necessarily have to have a very high pressure, but the eye doesn't respond to a pressure that, to the patient, is not normal. And so ... it's like a stealthy, very sneaky condition where you're unaware that you have it."

Alex Simone can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @NPNOWSimone.


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