Why Back-to-School Eye Exams are Important

Back-to-school brings a flurry of activity to most family households. There are many tasks to accomplish before school starts and parents and their children often rush to complete them. But do you realize you may be missing the most important preschool task of all?

Back-to-school eye exams are a critical part of preparing to return to a classroom. Children of all ages should see an ophthalmologist annually to ensure they don’t start school with a vision issue that could hold them back from reaching their full learning potential. Pediatric eye doctors in the Buffalo market work hard in the months leading up to the fall back-to-school season. Their goal is your goal—to ensure your child can properly see and comprehend in the learning environment they’re soon to return to. There is a strong correlation between visual acuity and academic performance. Having a regular schedule of screening for vision health is just as important as an annual physical check-up. Here’s what you need to know about back-to-school eye exams and why a pediatric eye doctor is so important to the academic achievement of your child.

At What Age Should Children Have an Eye Exam?

The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends a comprehensive eye exam from a pediatric ophthalmologist before their first birthday. Yet fewer than 15% of children receive this type of care. While most schools conduct vision screenings, they miss up to 75% of children with vision issues.

Think about it; Approximately 80% of learning involves using your eyes. Vision problems can be a significant health barrier to learning. Fortunately, back-to-school eye exams can help pinpoint the source of vision anomalies and correct them to ensure your child isn’t held back from learning this year.

It’s very common for undetected eye issues to be misinterpreted as learning disabilities. The American Optometric Association says, “As children progress throughout their education, they face increasing demands on their visual abilities. The size of print in textbooks becomes smaller and the amount of time spent reading and studying increases significantly.” This important observation doesn’t even take into account the increasing amount of digital screen time our children experience. Phones, tablets, laptops, video games, and more, all combine to create problems in your child’s eyes such as:

· Eye strain and fatigue, which can cause dimmed vision and headaches.

· Dry and irritated eyes, in part due to the fact that we have a tendancy to blink less when we stare at the computer.

· Difficulties focusing on distance vision when shifting from a close-up screen.

· Nearsightedness can develop when children spend too much time indoors. In fact, the rate of nearsightedness in children is on the rise, in part thanks to more time indoors in front of computer screens.

· Children can also have their sleep patterns interrupted by the blue light emitted from their screens. The brain interprets the light from the computer screen as daytime, making it harder for you to fall asleep.

How Often Should Children Have Their Eyes Checked?

Eye health is health. Yet many parents miss back-to-school eye exams as they face the hectic time before school starts each year. The AOA recommends:

· A full exam by a pediatric eye doctor between the ages of six and 12-months.

· At least one comprehensive exam of the eyes between the ages of three and five.

· Annual eye exams from a qualified pediatric ophthalmologist each year beginning before the first grade.

Following these guidelines are critical for children. The eyes go through big changes as children grow. Catching eye problems early is not only important for the child’s long-term health; poor vision affects the child’s ability to learn and interact inside the classroom—and out.

The Correlation Between Poor Vision and Learning

The AOA says, “Vision issues aren’t isolated problems but instead affect almost every aspect of a child’s development, ranging from academics and athletics to social interactions and self-esteem.” That makes the back-to-school eye exam critical not only for the health of your child’s vision but their social and educational performance. Having a child misdiagnosed as ADHA or dyslexic create labels that may follow them for years, when the underlying issue may be vision-related and solved by a pediatric ophthalmologist.

What are some of the signs your child may have problems with their vision?

Difficulty Following Along

Does your child have problems seeing clearly in the distance? They may not be able to focus on a long-distance chalkboard but do just fine reading a book or working on their computer. Poor distance visual acuity is easily corrected, but without a comprehensive exam it could instead be interpreted as the inability or unwillingness to pay attention to a teacher’s lecture.

Recognition/Visual Perception Issues

Problems with visual perception can include issues with focusing the eye as the distance from objects changes. Does your child have blurred vision when they look up from the computer? Is it difficult for them to go from a screen to a book and then a chalkboard at the front of the room. Examining the eye’s ability to focus during a comprehensive vision exam can pick up on subtle issues that may be bothering your child.

There are some common signs that your child may be experiencing a vision problem. Let’s talk about what you, as a parent, should be alert to in your child.

Signs of Eye and Vision Problems in Children

An annual pediatric eye exam as part of your back-to-school routine will give you peace of mind about your child’s eye health. If your child is exhibiting the following symptoms, a pediatric ophthalmologist offers a non-invasive, gentle approach to helping diagnose and correct any vision issues they may be having.

Frequent Headaches

Headaches caused by eye strain are very common when vision correction is needed.

Excessive Eye Rubbing

Does your child complain of a burning in their eyes. This could be a sign of dry eyes caused by excessive computer screen time. Or it could stem from eye strain caused from near- or farsightedness.


If you notice your child squinting or even turning the head to the side or rearing back the neck to see, their visual acuity is probably somehow impaired.

Your child’s eye health matters. That’s why back-to-school eye exams are as critical as a regular visit to your pediatrician. Did you know there is an experienced, caring pediatric eye doctor right here in Buffalo standing by to help both you and your child?

ECVA Offers Comprehensive Eye Exams for Children in Buffalo, NY

Eye Care & Vision Associates (ECVA) is Buffalo’s leading pediatric eye doctor. We offer full-service pediatric ophthalmologic appointments designed to get your child back-to-school and ready to learn. Contact us here or call us today at 1-716-631-EYES.

Congenial (Pediatric) Cataracts – What It Is and How It’s Treated

When people think of cataracts, they typically associate the condition with older adults. However, cataracts can happen much earlier in life, and they may even be present at birth.  

If you would like to learn more about congenital cataracts – including what they are, when they can occur, and how they are treated – here’s what you need to know.  

What Are Congenital Cataracts?  

Cataracts are a condition that leads to a cloudiness of the lens of the eye. They occur when specific proteins found within the eye start clumping. As the proteins bind together, they negatively impact vision, such as blurriness or fogginess. In some cases, the distortions are quite severe.  

The size and location of the cataracts can vary. Additionally, they may be present in one eye or both. In cases where both are affected, one may be in worse shape than the other, or the situation could be comparable in both eyes.  

Typically, the proteins clump slowly over time, which is why cataracts are more prevalent in older adults. However, with congenital cataracts, they are present at birth.  

In many cases, the reason the cataracts developed in the infant are not known. However, infections, metabolic conditions, trauma, inflammation, and medication reactions can potentially cause cataracts.  

Are Congenial and Pediatric Cataracts the Same?  

At times, the terms congenial and pediatric are used interchangeably. However, there are actually different versions of pediatric cataracts.  

With congenital cataracts, the condition is present at birth. With acquired pediatric cataracts, they develop after birth. Pediatric cataract patients may be infants, children, or adolescents.  

In some cases, the cause of pediatric cataracts may be known. For example, a previous eye injury may increase the child’s odds of developing cataracts and being diabetic or having certain other metabolic disorders. However, they can also occur without an apparent reason.  

What Are the Risks of Pediatric Cataracts?  

When cataracts occur in very young children, they don’t just impact vision acuity today; they may have a lasting impact on vision, eye health, and brain development. In adults, cataracts occur after the eyes and brain are fully developed, reducing the likelihood of long-term impact.  

Infants and children are different. The eyes and brain usually develop well into childhood, often up to the age of 10. When left untreated, congenital cataracts harm that development, potentially leading to lasting negative effects on vision. This could permanent declines in visual acuity, as well as possible blindness.  

How Are Congenital and Pediatric Cataracts Treated?  

With both congenital and pediatric cataracts, the treatment options vary depending on the severity of the condition. If the case is mild and isn’t impact vision, it may be possible to simply monitor the situation, only intervening if the cataracts worsen.  

However, if there is a negative impact on vision, surgery may be a necessity. The procedure removes the cataracts, alleviating the cause of the visual distortions and allowing the proper brain and eye development to occur.  

Ongoing treatment after surgery is also typical. Steps have to be taken to restore the eye-brain connection, ensuring they’ll be able to focus clearly.   

At ECVA, we take the health of our patients’ eyes seriously. If you believe your child may have congenital or pediatric cataracts, we are here to help. Schedule an appointment at your closest ECVA clinic today.  

August Is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month

August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. It’s a time where we focus on eye-related concerns that impact children and highlight the importance of eye exams for kids of all ages.  

During Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, our goal is to spread awareness about vision issues in children. Without clear vision, children often struggle to learn and play, both safely and effectively. Not only can this increase the odds of injuries, but it can also lead to social and educational issues. By making eye care a priority, many of the problems can be corrected if not fully avoided.  

If you would like to learn more about eye health and safety for children, including why regular appointments with their eye doctor are essential and warning signs of potential issues, here’s what you need to know.  

The Importance of Children’s Eye Health and Safety  

Overall, as many as one-in-20 preschool-age children have a visual impairment. This can include a variety of conditions, ranging from strabismus to refractive errors to amblyopia. Additionally, one in four school-age children has undetected vision issues. Considering that 80 percent of learning is visual, a notable number of children are struggling in the classroom due to eye issues.  

Regretfully, more than 50 percent of parents do not bring their children in for eye exams. Unfortunately, that means many kids are who have a vision or eye-health-related problems don’t receive a diagnosis until the issue has been in place for some time.  

While many parents may assume that they would notice vision problems in their children, that isn’t always the case. That’s why exams are so vital, as they ensure your child’s eyes are healthy and that they can see clearly, allowing them to learn (and play) with ease.  

Warning Signs of Vision Issues in Children  

While some warning signs of vision issues in children are hard to spot, others may be noticeable to parents. Some of the most common ones include:  

  • Eye rubbing  
  • Closing one eye to read or watch television  
  • Excessive tearing  
  • Light sensitivity  
  • Wandering eyes  

As we’ve discussed previously, there are also many hidden signs of vision problems in children that aren’t as easy to spot. By learning about those, you can further watch out for the health and safety of your child’s eyes and vision, ensuring they receive care when they need it most.  

How to Celebrate Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month  

If your child hasn’t had an eye exam recently, now is a perfect time. Celebrate Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month by scheduling an appointment to get their vision checked, ensuring they can see clearly and that their eyes are healthy.  

At ECVA, we take the safety and health of our patients’ eyes seriously, regardless of their age. If your child has symptoms of vision issues or simply hasn’t had an exam recently, our team is here for you. So take a moment and schedule an appointment at your closest ECVA clinic today.  

Pediatric Ptosis

child receiving an eye exam

Many parents aren’t familiar with all of the conditions that can impact their child’s eyes or vision. Pediatric ptosis, while common, isn’t necessarily widely known. If you are wondering what pediatric ptosis is, what the signs of pediatric ptosis are, and how the condition is treated, here’s what you need to know.  

What Is Pediatric Ptosis?  

Ptosis is an eye condition where the upper lid droops down or doesn’t open completely, causing it to obstruct the eye and physically block the visual field. Pediatric ptosis focuses on the condition when it impacts a child, including infants, toddlers, and younger kids.  

Pediatric ptosis can be caused by weaker eyelid muscles as well as excess eyelid skin. In some cases, it’s congenital, meaning it is present at birth. In others, it develops over time. Both trauma and neurological issues can be a cause and certain habits, like excessive eye rubbing.  

With pediatric ptosis, quick treatment is usually a necessity. Otherwise, the obstruction to the visual field can negatively impact eye development, leading to additional vision issues over time.  

Additionally, identifying the root cause of the condition is a must. That way, if the ptosis is a symptom of another medical issue, the underlying condition can be determined and appropriately addressed.  

Signs of Pediatric Ptosis  

In some cases, pediatric ptosis is outwardly noticeable. It will be apparent when looking at the child, as the eyelid either doesn’t move properly or remains low even when open.  

Some presentations can be more subtle. However, other symptoms indicate potential ptosis, including:  

  • Head tilting when trying to view an object  
  • Headaches or eye fatigue  
  • Running into items that are hanging from above  
  • Delayed walking or crawling  
  • Distorted, blurred, or double vision  
  • Eye misalignment  
  • Dizziness or balance issues  
  • Diminished vision acuity  

Many of these symptoms are potentially associated with ptosis and other conditions, as well. As a result, it’s best to see your eye doctor if any of them develop, even if eyelid drooping doesn’t seem to be present.  

Pediatric Ptosis Treatment  

If your child has ptosis, there may be a few treatment options. Which approach is best usually depends on the underlying cause along with the severity of the symptoms.  

For minor cases, nonsurgical treatment may be sufficient. This can include using eye drops or patching to strengthen the weaker eye, specialty eyeglasses, or a ptosis crutch, a device that supports the eyelid. If weaker muscles are the core issue, eye exercises may also be part of the treatment plan.  

In some cases, surgical intervention is a necessity. Precisely which procedure is required may vary. If an issue with the underlying muscle structure is involved, surgically tightening them may be the best approach. If excess skin is responsible, blepharoplasty may be the right option.  

Ultimately, your eye doctor can determine which treatment course is ideal. They’ll assess your child’s ptosis, identify the cause, and gauge the severity. Then, they can make an appropriate plan, ensuring the pediatric ptosis is addressed correctly.  

At ECVA, our staff works diligently to care for the eye health of patients of all ages, ensuring they can see clearly today, tomorrow, and well into the future. If you have a child with signs of pediatric ptosis or if you or your children simply haven’t had eye exams recently, schedule an appointment at your closest ECVA clinic today.  

Pediatric Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

a close up of someone's eyes, they are slightly red

Pediatric conjunctivitis – also known as pink eye – is incredibly common. Many children end up with the condition, though the exact cause can vary. Additionally, pink eye is often highly contagious, causing it to spread quickly among children.  

If you have questions about pediatric conjunctivitis, including what it is, common causes, how to treat it, and when to see a doctor, here’s what you need to know.  

What Is Pediatric Conjunctivitis?  

Pediatric conjunctivitis is an eye condition that typically leads to inflammation and swelling of the conjunctiva of the eye. This causes the impacted eye’s tissues to appear pinkish and irritated, hence why the condition is also called “pink eye.”  

There are actually several potential causes of pediatric conjunctivitis. Bacterial and viral infections are the most common cause in children, though allergies may also lead to pink eye.  

With infections, conjunctivitis can be highly contagious. If a child touches the infected eye and then touches their other eye, they can spread the infection to the second eye. Similarly, if a child touches the infected eye and then handles an object, someone else who then handles the item could potentially pick up the infection.  

Do Home or OTC Remedies Work?  

With viral or bacterial conjunctivitis, home treatments and over-the-counter (OTC) remedies can ease the discomfort that can come with pink eye. However, they won’t treat the underlying cause of the infection. Viruses usually need to clear on their own time, and direct treatment of bacterial inflections often requires antibiotics, which aren’t available over the counter.  

For allergy-related pink eye, OTC allergy medications may treat the underlying cause. Removing the allergen from the child’s environment is also beneficial, as it limits or eliminates their exposure to the irritant.  

To alleviate the discomfort of pink eye, OTC anti-inflammatory medications can help. Lubricating eye drops may also be beneficial. Just make sure that the tip of the dropper never contacts the eye and that those drops are not used by other people, as the dropper can spread the infection if it comes in contact with fluid from the eye.  

Using a clean washcloth that is dampened with warm water can also be soothing for bacterial or viral conjunctivitis. The washcloth should only be used once before it is washed. Otherwise, it could potentially spread the infection. For allergy-related pink eye, a cool, damp compress will often work better.  

When Do You Need to See a Doctor for Pink Eye?  

While pink eye will often resolve on its own, there are times when seeing a doctor is best. If your child is experiencing pain or light sensitivity, treatment by a medical professional is wise. Similarly, if your child is having trouble seeing, seek out treatment from a doctor.  

Additionally, if the eye is producing a lot of mucus or pus, or the conjunctivitis is accompanied by a fever, body aches, or other signs of a serious infection, making an appointment with a doctor is a good idea. Finally, if the symptoms persist for more than a week or are getting worse, it’s time for treatment from a medical professional.  

At ECVA, our staff works diligently to care for the eye health of our patients. If you suspect that you or your child have conjunctivitis or simply haven’t had an exam recently, schedule an appointment at your closest ECVA clinic today. 

Screen Use for Children, Is It Safe?

Many parents are aware that limiting their children’s screen time is a good idea. However, most parents aren’t entirely sure where they should draw the line.  

When it comes to screen time for kids, some common questions parents have include:  

  • How much screen use is too much for kids?  
  • How does too much screen time impact young children, including their eyes and attention spans?  
  • Should screen time vary depending on a child’s age?  
  • Is it safe for children to use screens?  

If you’ve ever wondered about those questions, here’s what you need to know.  

The Impact of Screen Use  

Screen use has been associated with a variety of health concerns in children. Research suggests that it can lead to developmental delays, poor sleep quality, obesity, ADHD, and eye development issues.  

When it comes to the eyes, myopia (nearsightedness) has become more common as screen time has increased throughout the population. Digital eye strain – which can lead to headaches, blurred vision, light sensitivity, and other symptoms – is also a concern. Since people tend to blink less when viewing screens, the occurrence of dry eye can rise with increased screen time, as well.  

The blue light that comes from screens and hits the eyes can also harm sleep quality. While some of this can be mitigated by going screen-free one to two hours before bed, when blue light impacts sleep, children may begin to struggle in their daily lives. Their grades may decline, their ability to focus can be hindered, or they might become irritable.   

Screen Use Recommendations  

Generally, kids younger than one shouldn’t use screens at all. Until up to age 2, screen use should be minimal. Ideally, digital media shouldn’t be part of their experience at all. If there is screen use before age 2, it should involve only video chats and educational media and only for short durations.  

Between the ages of 2 and five, limiting screen time to one hour per day is best. Ideally, you want to focus on high-quality, educational media, ensuring that hour provides value beyond entertainment.  

After age 5, there isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all approach. Parents will need to take a child’s educational and social needs into account, allowing them to set healthy but personalized limits.  

If you aren’t sure where to begin, banning device use during key moments can be a solid starting point. For example, not allowing screens during dinner or one to two hours before bed are reasonable limits. You can also set time-based limits and even install apps that prevent individual device use after that amount of time has passed.  

Ultimately, your child’s health should be a guiding light in your screen time decisions. That way, you can set proper limits and reduce their odds of experiencing screen time’s negative effects.  

Make an Appointment With a Pediatric Ophthalmologist 

At ECVA, our staff works diligently to care for the eye health of our patients. If your child hasn’t had an eye exam recently, schedule an appointment at your closest ECVA clinic today. 

Some Hidden Signs of Vision Problems in Children

a male child getting an eye exam

As a child grows, their eyes and vision can change. While parents may hope that their child would let them know if they are having trouble seeing, many kids have difficulty identifying shifts in their visual acuity as a problem, even if it’s causing them hardship. As a result, they might not know to speak up about what they’re experiencing, leading the vision problem to remain untreated.  

However, that doesn’t mean parents can’t spot vision changes in their children. If you’re wondering how, here are some hidden signs of vision problems in kids.  

Shortening Attention Span  

If it seems like your child is losing interest in activities faster than usual, that could be a sign of a vision change. When a kid is struggling to see clearly, they may choose to walk away from an activity that’s become difficult because of their vision problem.  

Skipping Up Close Activities  

In some cases, children will try to avoid activities that strain their vision. If your kid is suddenly trying to skip out on up-close activities that they once enjoyed, like reading or drawing, that could be a sign of a vision problem.  

Changing Interest or Performance in Sports  

Many sports require participants to visually track objects, including some that move at high speeds and travel great distances. If a child has a vision change, that may become increasingly difficult, causing either their interest in the sport to fall or their performance to decline.  

Losing Track of Their Place When Reading  

When a child’s vision changes, they may struggle to read. Usually, vision problems can make tracking where they are on a page harder. As they lose their place, they may repeat sections they’ve already covered or skip ahead by mistake.  

Turning Their Head When Looking at Something  

If your child starts turning their head to the side when they look at something positioned in front of them, that may be a sign of a vision change. Refractive issues like astigmatism may cause a kid to shift their head’s position in an attempt to see more clearly.  

Falling Grades or Behavioral Problems at School  

When a child is having trouble seeing, staying focused in the classroom isn’t easy. Since school work tends to rely heavily on clear vision, children with vision problems may struggle to complete their assignments, causing their grades to fall. Additionally, they might become frustrated, increasing the odds that they’ll lash out during class.  

What to Do If You Spot a Sign of a Vision Change in Your Child  

Like adults, children should get regular eye exams. By regularly seeing your eye doctor, they can identify potential issues early, increasing the odds that they’ll be treated or corrected before they become problematic.  

However, even if your child has been to their regular appointments, if you believe you’ve seen a sign of a vision problem in your child, schedule a visit with your eye doctor immediately. A child’s vision can change fast, so it’s wise to have the situation checked at the earliest sign of trouble.  

Helping Your Child See More Clearly is our Goal 

At ECVA, our staff works diligently to care for the eye health of our patients. If your child hasn’t had an eye exam recently, schedule an appointment with a Buffalo pediatric ophthalmologist at your closest ECVA clinic today. 

When Should My Child Get an Eye Exam?

a male child getting an eye exam

Most parents are diligent about caring for their child’s health. However, many overlook the importance of eye exams or aren’t fully aware of when their child should see an eye doctor. This is especially true with younger children who aren’t yet in school or reading.  

But even if your child is too young to read an eye chart, that doesn’t mean you should forgo regular eye exams. If you are wondering when you should bring your child in for an appointment, here’s what you need to know.  

When Your Child Should Get Their First Eye Exam  

While most pediatricians check your child’s eyes on a basic level, their exams aren’t as comprehensive as what your child receives from an eye doctor. Ideally, your child should come in for their first official eye exam when they are six months to one year old. This creates an opportunity for certain issues or anomalies to be spotted early, making treatment simpler and more effective.  

When Your Child Should Come in Again for an Eye Exam  

After an initial exam, many children won’t need a second one until they begin kindergarten. It’s wise to have their vision checked at that time, ensuring they can see clearly when they start attending school.  

However, if your child is exhibiting any signs of a vision problem, it’s best to come in earlier. This could include squinting, issues with headaches, holding items closer to the face than usual, and more.  

Additionally, if there’s any evidence of an abnormality, it’s wise to schedule an appointment immediately. Issues like strabismus or lazy eye – where eyes are crossed, turned, or otherwise misaligned – are often fairly apparent.  

It’s also wise to bring children in more often if there is a family history of certain eye issues. This can include eye conditions like those above and early development of near- or farsightedness.  

How often they need to come in for appointments after that can vary. For children without vision issues, a history of eye problems in the family, and no symptoms of vision challenges, an eye exam every two years may be enough. If your child requires vision correction or there’s a family history of eye conditions, then once a year is wise.  

However, it’s also crucial to bring your child in immediately if they are exhibiting symptoms that could indicate an eye or vision condition. This can include changes in how they act or interact with objects, trouble reading, a sudden decline in their grades, coordination challenges, and more.  

As with adults, early intervention is the key to eye health. Plus, by seeing your eye doctor regularly, you can make sure your child’s vision is sharp, ensuring they can learn, participate in activities, and otherwise have a fantastic childhood.  

At ECVA, our staff works tirelessly to care for the eye health of our patients. If your child hasn’t had an eye exam recently, schedule an appointment at your closest ECVA clinic today.