Q&A with Optometrist Werner Fourie 

Which symptoms do I need to look for?

For children to perform well in school it is important that they have good vision, not only at near but also at distance. Many eye problems can be asymptomatic, so make sure they go for an annual eye examination at an optometrist near you. Some symptoms that may be present are:

  • Frequent eye rubbing or blinking
  • Short attention span
  • Avoiding reading and other close activities
  • Frequent headaches
  • Covering one eye
  • Tilting the head to one side
  • Holding reading materials close to the face
  • An eye turning in or out
  • Seeing double
  • Losing place when reading
  • Difficulty remembering what he or she read

How can we as parents help our child protect his/her eyes?

Keep an eye (no pun intended) on your child’s visual symptoms as mentioned above. When they play games on their ipad or sit hours in front of computers, it will help if they take short brakes and go outside to focus on objects at a distance. It is not good for the eyes to strain on near objects for prolonged periods, so some outdoor activities are always advised. A good healthy diet will help protect the eyes. It is also a good idea to consider polycarbonate or impact resistant lenses when making your child’s spectacles. Children are very active and normal plastic lenses can break on impact of a soccer ball or other objects.

At what age should I have my child’s eyes tested?

Testing a child’s eyes at a very young age may seem difficult due to the lack of feedback given by the child, but if we stick to age related tests it is not impossible. At a young age we want to determine if the child has normal vision for their age and also look at binocularity and ocular health. It is also important that nothing obstructs or limits the child visual development. I will suggest you test your child’s eyes as early as possible, even younger than 2 years old.

What does an eye test entail?

As I mentioned, children’s eye tests will depend on the age and ability of the child. We have age related tests we perform the get important feedback and information. Below are some of the tests that may be performed at the eye examination:

Patient history, visual acuity, preliminary tests, keratometry, refraction, eye movements, binocularity tests, accommodative tests, ocular health assessment and supplemental tests (Additional testing may be needed based on the results of the previous tests. Ask your optometrist about these tests)

Can a child wear either contacts or spectacles?

Yes, they can, but there are a few things to consider. Firstly, the optometrist should give the thumbs up that your child is a good candidate for contact lens wear. They will determine if your child can insert them, remove them, clean them and follow all the other contact related usage requirements. Contact lenses are ideal for sport as spectacles could hinder their abilities. If they do perform sport with spectacles, consider impact resistant lenses for safety

How can we improve your child’s hand-eye coordination?

Many optometrists will give some hand-eye coordination exercises to improve this function. One of the things you can do at home is throwing and catching a tennis ball with both eyes open, then one eye closed. You can also let your child throw the tennis ball in the air, while the ball is in the air your child should spin around and catch it again. You can make this more challenging by having them throw with the one hand and catch with the other. There are many hand-eye coordination exercises out there, feel free to ask us if you want more examples

Are there any myths with regards to vision when it comes to the younger generation?

Studies have shown an increase in near-sightedness around the world. One of the causes may be the increased amount of time sent in front of visual display units. For that reason, many companies have brought out new technology to help us with this. These new lenses are called accommodative lenses or computer lenses and reduce some of the strain when working on computers and tablets. Other lenses introduced in the last few years claim to control myopia digression. Some optometrists also use multifocal contact lenses for this reason.

Taking all the above into consideration, it will be best to have your kids vision assessed by an optometrist near you, ensuring they have optimal vision and visual ability to perform at school and in life.