CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — At the start of 2020, Zion Eye Institute celebrated the dawning of a new decade with plans to give away 20 LASIK surgeries through monthly contests. For the theme of their next giveaway, they’re focusing on how Southern Utahns are handling the start of a new school year, while reminding parents of the importance of regular eye exams for the whole family.
To enter the next giveway, visit Zion Eye’s website and fill out the form to share a photo of you or your family that represents how you’re going back to school. You can also post a photo on the Zion Eye Facebook page. The winner will receive a free LASIK procedure, which they can undergo themselves or opt to give to a family member or friend.
With kids returning to classes, while parents are entering the LASIK contest, they will also hopefully remember to schedule a routine eye exam for their children. Dr. Joshua Schliesser, pediatric ophthalmology specialist at Zion Eye, said this is particularly important for kids who won’t receive a vision screening at school.
“If they’re learning at home, it’s critical that those children be assessed,” Schliesser said.
Zion Eye can assess and treat children at virtually any stage of development. Methods vary from fixation and tracking techniques for nonverbal infants to the more complex eye charts similar to the ones used for adults.
“It doesn’t have to be a scary thing,” Schliesser said. “An eye exam is typically not very invasive, and we can gain a lot of information that helps children see better.”
The doctor can determine if a corrective prescription is needed, check eye alignment and test depth perception using 3D imagery. Zion Eye also has specialized equipment that can be used to check for rare but serious conditions like cataracts, glaucoma and retina problems.
Schliesser said that in his five years at Zion Eye, he has observed a variety of conditions that can be successfully treated if detected soon enough – ideally around 4 or 5 years old – but which often elude the notice of pediatricians and parents.
The most common is amblyopia, also known as lazy eye, in which a child only requires a corrective prescription in one eye. Left unchecked, the brain will grow accustomed to compensating for the vision deficiency, and the eye is unable to develop properly.
“Other eye conditions like cataracts or misaligned eyes may be less common, but if they’re not caught and treated early, whether through glasses or surgery, can have lasting vision issues,” he said.
Zion Eye recommends that some type of eye assessment, if not a full eye exam, be performed at every well-child visit. For infants and toddlers, this is usually just a visual examination of the eyes and observing how light reflects off the retinas.
Pediatricians may notice physical abnormalities, such as different size pupils or one eye turning either inward or outward, or the child may appear to have trouble seeing. Schliesser said that kids with an extensive family history of vision problems are often referred to Zion Eye for a proactive exam.
Beyond an assessment, the doctors at Zion Eye recommend that children start undergoing routine eye exams once they enter preschool or kindergarten.
“Of course, if the pediatrician or parent sees anything sooner, we recommend the parents bring the child in for an eye exam,” he said.
When it comes to making corrections, children are experiencing unique times with the COVID-19 pandemic, and Schliesser said wearing face masks to school presents a new challenge for kids with glasses, adding that unfortunately contacts are not the best option for younger students.
Because masks come in various sizes and shapes, parents should take the time to find the right fit for their child’s head. Using tape to hold the nose piece in place and fitting glasses lower will also help. The better a mask fits around the nose, the less likely glasses are to start fogging up.
Schliesser said the pandemic also changed the landscape of education itself and how students are learning. Not only does this mean some students will be staying at home as their peers return to school, resulting in missed school vision screenings, but the method of online instruction could also have a negative impact on vision.
“With COVID-19, we’ve seen kids having to do online learning for the end of the last school year, and then many opting to do it through this year,” he said. “So that means more time on screens: computers, tablets … there’s definitely going to be more eye strain.”
Digital eye strain leads to symptoms such as dry eyes and headaches, all of which can be exacerbated if a child doesn’t have proper glasses. Children with farsightedness or astigmatism may find it challenging to read a textbook or screen after just a short period of time.
Schliesser said that many learning problems that children experience can be attributed to poor vision.
“A child’s perception of the world is based on their senses, and the sense of vision is so critical, especially as children are getting back into school,” he said. “We want to do everything we can to help improve that.”
Written by ALEXA MORGAN for St. George News.
• S P O N S O R E D C O N T E N T •
- Zion Eye Institute | Address: 1791 E. 280 North, St. George | Telephone: 435-656-2020 or 877-841-2020 | Website.
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