Back to school eye care

Back-to-School Eye Care

Back-to-school means a lot of new things: new clothes, backpacks, and teachers. One essential item that’s left off many back-to-school checklists? Routine eye care.

A new school year always comes with time spent sitting in classrooms, completing homework, and researching on the computer. Having unclear eyesight or unbalanced vision can make schoolwork an even bigger challenge.

When vision isn’t clear, or both eyes don’t work together as a team, school tasks — such as reading the chalk board or completing homework — can lead to eye strain, headaches, and double vision.

Each year, school nurses conduct basic health screenings for students, including vision screenings. These screenings serve as indicators of severe vision problems; however, developing vision problems sometimes can go undetected because they have no outward symptoms.

Scott Drexler, OD, an American Optometric Association member, warns that one in four children have an undiagnosed vision problem simply because they may not recognize that their eyesight isn’t optimal or is changing.

Comprehensive eye exams are one of the most important back-to-school preparations a parent can schedule to help maximize their child’s education,” says Dr. Drexler. “Good visual acuity contributes to overall health and well-being, and makes the back-to-school transition as smooth as possible. Some vision problems may not have warning signs and parents and educators often incorrectly assume that if a child passes a school screening, their vision is fine.”

How To Know When A Child Needs Eye Care

Older, school-aged children should be able to let you know if they are having difficulty seeing. You may even notice your child squinting at the TV or when trying to see objects in the distance.

Younger children, however, often aren’t aware that there is an issue with their vision. You can help detect potential visual problems by looking for:

  • Rubbing of the eyes.
  • Excessive blinking.
  • Reading slowly.
  • Using fingers as a placeholder while reading.
  • Poor hand-eye coordination.

Why Routine Eye Care Is Important

Routine eye exams help catch vision problems early — which can prevent problems later on.

Because most learning is presented visually, delays in addressing your child’s vision problems may result in lower grades, reading difficulty, behavior problems, and low self-esteem.

Uncorrected vision doesn’t just contribute to academic difficulties. It also can lead to problems in athletics.

Student athletes with unclear vision often have coordination issues, as well as difficulty seeing the ball, teammates, or goal — which, ultimately may lead to increased frustration and embarrassment.

While some academic and performance difficulties may be attributed to a larger issue, it’s important to rule out vision issues first. With an exam, an eye doctor may be able to prescribe glasses or contact lenses to help address the issues.

Pink Eye Symptoms and Prevention

Back-to-school season also is the time of year when eye doctors see an increased number of cases of conjunctivitis, or pink eye. Spread through physical contact, pink eye is the most common eye condition for school-aged children. Lasting approximately one week, pink eye symptoms can include:

  • Redness.
  • Itching.
  • Inflammation.
  • Tearing or mucous discharge.

Pink eye can be treated by antibiotics. After students have been on medication for about 24 hours they are usually permitted to return to school.

To help prevent initial infection, encourage your children to:

  • Wash their hands frequently.
  • Avoid touching or rubbing their eyes.
  • Never share makeup.
  • Change their pillowcase.
  • Not share towels.

Visit the The UPMC Eye Center to learn more about eye care and eye health, or to schedule an appointment.

Editor's Note: This gallery was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .