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Eye on Kids: Healthy Sight for a Healthy Life

Parents are always thinking about how to keep their children healthy and help them perform their best at school. There are many important factors, but providing quality eye care and eyewear is one way for parents to help ensure that their kids are seeing – and learning – properly, while also saving on costly eye and overall health problems down the road. Offering a comprehensive vision benefit as part of your healthcare package can help you attract and retain employees with kids, and provides a value-add to your work force at a low cost to you or them.

Eye Care for Kids: A No Brainer

It makes sense that good vision is essential to a child's ability to learn in school, especially considering that 70 percent of our knowledge of the world around us is gained by using our eyes! Unfortunately, 10 million U.S. children suffer from undiagnosed vision problems that may lead to failure in school, according to the National PTA.

Common signs of poor vision to look out for include:

  • Trouble seeing the blackboard
  • Difficulty reading
  • Frustration or low self-esteem
  • Redness or tearing of the eyes
  • Excessive eye rubbing or squinting
  • Headaches

Some of the most common eye diseases and refractive errors that can cause many of these symptoms are:

  • Strabismus – eye misalignment
  • Amblyopia – "lazy eye"
  • Myopia – near-sightedness
  • Hyperopia – far-sightedness
  • Astigmatism – difficulty seeing fine detail

A comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor can ensure that kids get the proper eyeglass prescription they need so they can see and perform their best inside and outside the classroom.

But eye care can do more than make sure kids are wearing the right eyeglasses. Regular eye exams that include dilation allow an eye doctor to look deep into the eye to see the first signs of eye conditions or diseases – allowing for early treatment. Plus, they can even reveal other medical conditions such as childhood diabetes, hypertension and even certain cancers – making these exams an important part of prevention and children's overall health care.

Diabetes and Eye Health

Obesity is a growing, serious problem among today's children. One-third of kids ages two to 19 are overweight or at-risk of becoming obese, a serious risk factor for developing diabetes. When left untreated, diabetes can lead to:

  • Heart disease
  • Kidney failure and
  • Circulatory problems

Diabetes can also take a heavy toll on vision. It can lead to serious eye problems, such as diabetic retinopathy – which is becoming more common among children. Studies also show that this disease may progress especially quickly in children. Without proper treatment, diabetic retinopathy can lead to severe vision loss and even blindness.

Fortunately, comprehensive eye exams allow eyecare professionals to detect diabetes-related eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy early – even if the child isn't noticing a change in vision yet. This is important, because early detection and treatment is key to avoid permanent vision loss.

Kids who already have diabetes or are at-risk may also experience light sensitivity and be especially susceptible to damage from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. This damage accumulates over time and can't be reversed. Glare-minimizing, UV-blocking eyewear is especially important for kids with diabetes and those at-risk. Parents should talk to their eye doctor about their child's medical history – including risk for diabetes – so that they can discuss appropriate eye care and eyewear as part of the child's disease prevention or management plan.

Impact of Medications

Many parents don't know that prescription or non-prescription medications their kids may be taking can affect their vision – right now or in the future. For example:

  • Common diabetes medications can cause light sensitivity and increase the risk of damage from the sun
  • Steroidal agents (inhalers) can cause long-term effects such as cataract and glaucoma
  • Anti-histamines for seasonal allergies can change vision and cause light sensitivity and dry eye
  • Medications for ADHD (Ritalin) can cause light sensitivity, blurred vision and decreased vision
  • Medications for high blood pressure can cause light sensitivity

With more and more American children and teens taking medications to control conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, it is especially important for kids to get their eyes examined regularly and wear eyewear to protect their eyes from UV and glare. To find out whether a particular medication can impact vision, check out the Ocular Effects of Medications database at

Kids and Vision Wear

Kids spend more time outdoors than adults, and their developing eyes actually absorb three times the ultraviolet (UV) rays, leaving them more vulnerable to serious eye problems caused by cumulative UV damage. For this reason, eyecare professionals recommend that kids wear sunglasses or photochromic lenses that block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays, helping to keep them seeing their best for the future.

More time in the sun means kids are also exposed to glaring conditions outdoors. Glare – or bright light – can:

  • Make it tougher for kids to distinguish contrast
  • Be distracting or dangerous
  • Lead to eyestrain and fatigue

For these reasons, kids need glare protection even more than adults do. Photochromic lenses – such as Transitions® lenses – can make a difference. That's because Transitions lenses are clear as regular indoors and at night, but darken in varying light conditions outdoors to provide the ideal amount of light to reach your child's eyes, minimizing glare while also helping to protect against UV damage. They can also be combined with an anti-reflective coating to reduce reflections on the lenses indoors, which is helpful when looking at a computer for school work or play.

Kids are also active, and often participate in sports or other activities that can lead to eye trauma. All children should be wearing safety glasses or eyeglass lenses made with materials that pass strict impact requirements, such as polycarbonate or Trivex® lens material. Many of today's lens options, such as Transitions lenses, can be combined with an impact resistant material, to help keep kids' eyes safe from UV, glare and trauma.

A Need for Education

Unfortunately, many parents don't take the steps they should to protect their kids' eye health. For example, today's kids are twice as likely to wear sunscreen as sunglasses, and one out of every three parents is "very unlikely" to choose UV-blocking lenses for his or her children. While skin protection is also very important, not using protective eyewear means kids' eyes are left exposed to damage from the sun.

Are your employees familiar with the eyecare and eyewear options available through your vision plan to help protect their children's eye and overall health? For more information, visit the HR Professionals section at

If you're interested in sharing this material with your employees, just copy and paste the following text and link into an e-mail.

Did you know that eye exams for kids can detect diseases like diabetes, or that kids need to protect their eyes from the sun even more than you do? Click on the link below to read a newsletter about kids' eye health, and how the latest vision care and vision wear technology offered through your vision benefit can help preserve not only their eye health – but their overall health as well.