Oklahoma's optometric physicians are reminding parents that all students should receive comprehensive vision exams before the start of the school year, especially as students rely to a greater degree on distance learning, tablets, and computers.
“Because of COVID-19, we are seeing a lot more work being done remotely, and that means a lot more screen time,” said Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians (OAOP) President Tyson Allard, OD. “Sitting 15 feet away from a blackboard is a lot healthier for your eyes than staring at a tablet that’s a foot from your face. The result of that kind of sustained exposure to screens can cause everything from minor headaches to eye strains.”
Smart phones, tablets and computers can cause a condition known as “Computer Vision Syndrome,” or CVS. Symptoms of CVS include eye strain, headaches, fatigue, burned or tired eyes, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain. Nationally, parents report that two-thirds of all children use devices for homework that can cause CVS.
Furthermore, undiagnosed vision problems are extremely common (approximately one-in-four children has an untreated vision condition). Vision problems can cause both academic and behavioral problems as well as physical conditions like frequent headaches. Approximately 40 percent of all children with learning disabilities have vison problems.
Dr. Allard said that undiagnosed vision problems will probably be even more common during the COVID-era.
“Parents who choose at-home learning may not notice vision problems in the same way that a school nurse or even a teacher would be trained to look for,” said Dr. Allard. “That’s why it’s more important than ever to have a comprehensive exam from an optometrist."
Optometrists also warn that screenings performed in school or even by pediatricians are often not enough. Many simple vision screenings performed in those settings test basic distance visual acuity (ie “is a child ‘near-sighted or ‘far-sighted?”), without also testing the wide variety of vision conditions and problems that affect learning and schoolwork. Eye doctors are using the back-to-school season to remind parents that comprehensive vision exams are the best way to identify and correct these issues.
Parents can find an optometrist near them at https://oklahoma.aoa.org/.