Rebecca G. (Cayuga, ON) My daughter got her glasses at age nine. Now, at 11, she can’t see the chalkboard at school. Could she need a new prescription so soon?

"Most provinces provide full coverage for children’s eye examinations."

Dr. Alan Ulsifer  Your daughter is likely nearsighted which is the most common reason children need eyeglasses. Unfortunately, younger children grow quickly and therefore their eyes can change very quickly as well. It is not at all uncommon to see a need to change prescriptions yearly, and sometimes, even more often. The best rule of thumb is to have your child examined annually, or sooner, should there be complaints about vision or changes in the way they read. Most provinces provide full coverage for children’s eye examinations.

Carlo A. (Ancaster, ON) My 6-year-old son just had a vision screening at school and he passed. Does he still need an eye exam?

AU  The topic of vision screenings is often discussed amongst Doctors of Optometry. In a perfect world, screenings, often not performed by doctors, would identify that there is a vision or eye coordination problem, and a subsequent referral for a comprehensive examination would follow. The problem is that screenings can miss significant problems and people often see a screening as a replacement for an eye exam. Screenings are great in that they can identify problems in children currently not in the eye care system, but they should not lead to a false sense of security. Eighty percent of learning is visual and nothing is a substitute for an in-office examination that employs expertise and technologies not usually available in a basic screening. It’s important that children get comprehensive eye exams annually.

Ben F. (St. John’s, NL) My 8-year-old grandson’s teacher thinks he has “convergence insufficiency.” What is this and can how can he get help?

AU  Convergence insufficiency is a reasonably common but often undiagnosed eye coordination problem. In its simplest explanation, it defines a situation where the eyes do not naturally align when looking at a near object or reading. Because this natural alignment does not exist, a person must exert much more effort than most people do to keep the eyes aligned and focused. Symptoms can include headache, double vision, fluctuating vision, fatigue while reading and trouble tracking while reading. In children, it can manifest as simple avoidance of reading or as delayed learning.

This condition can exist even when a person sees 20/20 and is one of the many reasons why 20/20 does not necessarily mean healthy and comfortable vision. Treatment is usually a series of eye exercises (orthoptics) to increase the capacity to compensate for the natural misalignment of the eyes. The good news, is that treatment is typically very successful.