Ever-increasing myopia rates another reason to book an eye exam


By Dr. Harry Bohnsack,

President of Canadian Association of Optometrists


The vast majority of classroom learning is visual, which means that while children are at school, their eyes are constantly in use.

An annual comprehensive eye exam helps to ensure that a child’s eyes are ready for all the work they will face over the course of the school year.

The Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends an annual comprehensive eye exam for children ages six to 19 (as well as one before a child enters school).

A comprehensive eye exam (what optometrists often call a physical for your eyes!) is different from a sight test. Performed by an optometrist, it includes the entire eye and visual system.

A sight test is more limited, measuring only what type of lens you would need if you needed glasses.

While optometrists have long encouraged an annual comprehensive eye exam for children, the ever-increasing rates of myopia (near-sightedness) among children is adding some fuel to their fire.

According to a 2018 Canadian study, myopia affects 17 per cent of children aged six to 13. This figure is increasing, for a number of reasons, one of which will have critical resonance in the post-pandemic era: too much time looking at material up close, including screens and especially when children are young.

Myopia can’t be cured, but it can be treated – with glasses or contacts or drops.

However, the longer-term complications of myopia are more problematic because it can dramatically increase the incidence of other eye disease, including retinal detachments, cataracts and glaucoma. 

Another reason for taking a child for an eye exam is that they may not even realize they are having difficulty with their vision, because they may assume everyone is seeing what they are.

However, children experiencing vision difficulties may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • headaches or irritability;
  • avoidance of near or distance work;
  • covering or rubbing of the eyes;
  • tilting of the head or unusual posture;
  • using a finger to maintain place while reading;
  • omitting or confusing words when reading; and
  • performing below their potential.

Parents who notice any of these symptoms should take their child for a comprehensive eye exam early in the school year. 

This will ensure good vision and optimal performance at school.