Back to school - Time for an eye exam?

It's mid August. Summer is slowly leaving us and our thoughts turn to back to school (at least in part because the ads on TV and in stores are everywhere)! In the run up to going back to school parents typically think about shopping for new clothes, school supplies and worrying about schedules.

Have you thought about an eye exam for your kids?

You definitely should. One in four children has a visually related learning difficulty. I've lost count of the number of children I've seen who have been told they have a learning disability when in reality the problem was their vision. It can be hard to catch up if for the first several years of school you struggled to see and fell behind in the basics of reading, writing and math.

This is all very preventable. Make sure your child comes in for their first exam at age 6 months  and then is seen every year after. If they're older than 6 months and haven't had an eye exam yet be sure to get them checked soon! You might be thinking, 'Why? My child sees just fine and passed a vision screening at school." Well, we can't rely on vision screenings. They really should be called sight screenings since they're only checking sight (as in 20/20 or not) and not vision. Optometrists don't just check sight. We check how well the eyes work together and how sight is processed. Children don't have a solid understanding of how the world should look and children often assume what they see is what everyone else sees too. Many times vision screenings also only check sight with both eyes open. If one eye has a high prescription it will be missed and can lead to amblyopia.

Seeing 20/20 is important but it isn't everything. Book an eye exam to make sure your child isn't suffering from an undiagnosed vision problem.

So what should you watch for? Often there are no obvious symptoms of a vision problem (especially if it's a problem with only one eye). When a child is having vision related learning problems though they may reverse words when writing or copying, confuse the same word in the same sentence, skip lines while reading or read the same line twice to name only a few possible problems.

The best way to prevent and avoid problems is to have your child's eye examined yearly. Children's eye exams are fully covered by Alberta Health Care every year (or more frequently if required). The Alberta Association of Optometrists also has the Eye See, Eye Learn program for children age 5 to receive a free pair of glasses if required!

There's no excuse! Book your child's eye exam today.

If you have any questions about this or anything else or if you want to book an eye exam feel free to contact us on TwitterFacebookGoogle +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

Amblyopia - How do we treat it?

My last blog about amblyopia discussed what amblyopia is and why it happens. It’s been a while so if you forget what amblyopia was or missed that blog follow the link back and find  out more before reading about how we treat amblyopia.

So what do we do about amblyopia? It’s actually not all that difficult! If there is a large amount of farsightedness or astigmatism our first step is to correct the prescription. A lot of parents get lost about now. We’ve just spent the last several minutes explaining to them that their child can’t see properly even with glasses and now we’re saying that they need glasses to fix the problem. This is especially tricky if there is no change in how well the kid sees without glasses or with!  It’s totally fair to question what we’re doing and why. The idea is to provide the eye (or eyes) with a nice sharp image. It may not make any difference in how well they see at first but over time as the eyes receive a nice sharp image they will learn more and more how to see better. If we go back to our earlier analogy with the flowers it’s sort of like watering the poor neglected flower. Just because you watered it doesn’t mean it instantly comes back to health and looks amazing. It takes care and time to nurse that flower back into full bloom.

If the amblyopia is only in one eye or is strabismic (eye turn) patching an eye is often required. The reason we have to patch in cases where only one eye is affected is  because if we don’t the better eye will just take over and keep doing all the work. This prevents the weaker eye from doing any work and slows or eliminates how well it will improve. The good news is that research has found that patching is NOT required all day every day! In fact it is only required for a few hours each night though we do recommend that the patient does some visually stimulating activities like reading, colouring or even video games.

There are certainly some cases that are more complicated and require more intervention and far more intensive vision therapy. Some patients may eventually require an eye surgery if they have an eye turn but the majority of patients with amblyopia can be easily treated so long as it is detected early. The older we are the harder it is to treat amblyopia as our brains are more set in their ways. So book your kids in for an eye exam today! You may think they see just fine, they may seem to see well but remember amblyopia may only affect one eye and young kids often don’t realize what they aren’t seeing!

If you want to read more feel free to check out the following links or as always you can contact us on Twitter, Facebook, Google +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

Doctors of Optometry Canada - Amblyopia

Mayo Clinic - Amblyopia


Amblyopia - An introduction to a common and confusing problem

Let me introduce you to one of the  most commonly misunderstood eye disorders that occurs in children and can continue into adulthood: amblyopia. Why is amblyopia so confusing? The biggest problem is that it’s hard to explain in a way that makes sense to everyone. So let’s hunker down and understand what amblyopia is.

Amblyopia is often also called lazy eye. This is horribly confusing because strabismus (where the eye turns in, out, up or down all or most of the time) is also commonly called a lazy eye. While an eye turn can lead to amblyopia, it doesn’t always and many people have amblyopia without an eye turn. Confused yet? What is amblyopia then? Officially it is decreased vision, even with glasses on, without any other disease or health problem being present. To really understand amblyopia though we need to know where it comes from. Remember that when we are born we don’t see perfectly well! In fact our eyes develop and learn how to see from the time we’re born until we are about eight years old.

There are two types of amblyopia. One type is called refractive  (meaning related to the prescription) the other type is called strabismic (meaning that there is an eye turn). The prescription related type of amblyopia is almost always caused by either very high amounts of farsightedness or very high amounts of astigmatism that have not been corrected with glasses. Sometimes this will happen in only one eye but it will often happen in both. The problem is that if you have a very large amount of farsightedness or astigmatism it’s not possible to see well at any distance.  Strabismic amblyopia occurs when an eye is always turned out or turned in. Since that eye is always off to the side our brain edits out any images from it and it doesn’t get used. This is a great example of use it or lose it! Remember that when we are young our eyes are still learning how to see. If during that time, when we are learning how to see, our eyes never have a clear image (or just isn't used!) we never develop the ability to see as well as we should. To put it another way imagine you had two potted flowers. One flower you diligently watered and fertilized every day but the other flower you more or less ignored. Even if they started out with the same potential the flower that got taken care of would thrive while the other would wither away. Eyes are obviously not exactly the same but an eye that gets daily stimulation with sharp clear images will learn and develop much better than an eye that doesn’t.

So what do we do about it? I'll cover how we treat amblyopia in my next blog! Until then if you want to read more feel free to check out the following links or as always contact us on Twitter, Facebook, Google + or via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

Doctors of Optometry Canada - Amblyopia

Mayo Clinic - Amblyopia