Eye exams are essential for children
Published 7:00 am Friday, August 26, 2016
August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month and Picayune optometrist Dr. Lori Blackmer, owner of Picayune Eye Clinic, said it’s important for children to have a complete eye exam before starting school.
Regular screenings often miss more important eye diseases, although most are rare in children, Blackmer said.
“Screenings only check distance vision,” she said. “During an eye exam we can check for problems with depth perception and muscle balance. We learn most everything visually, even after we have learned to read. If they have to strain or work too hard to see or if reading causes headaches, they’re going to want to put that book away. It makes it harder to concentrate.”
In 2015, the Mississippi Optometric Association provided free eye exams to students who did not pass the third grade assessment, Blackmer said. Blackmer saw four children through that program last year and one this year.
Last year, about 15 percent of third graders in the state did not pass the reading assessment, a release from MOA states.
According to the release, “88 percent of students tested through the no-cost eye exam program were found to be in need of some form of visual intervention.”
“Now they’re trying to get with second and third grade teachers to get kids who may have vision problems tested before they fail the test,” Blackmer said. “The MOA, American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest children get yearly exams. Kids change rapidly. Several states, including Kentucky and Iowa, require a complete eye exam before kids enter kindergarten. Mississippi does not have that requirement.”
In her office, Blackmer utilizes Optos, which allows her to see a 220-degree image of the back of the eye and provides her a closer look at blood vessels. By using this technology, the majority of patients do not have to have their eyes dilated, she said.
Douglas Anderson developed Optos in 1992 after “his 5-year-old son went blind in one eye after a retinal detachment was detected too late,” the Optos website states. Routine eye exams are often uncomfortable for children, the website states, thereby making it impossible for the doctor to complete a full exam and view the entire retina. With Optos, doctors can now capture a “digital wide field image of the retina in a single capture.”