Children’s eye exams could head off trouble

Published Saturday, April 3, 2004

Children’s eye exams could head off trouble

Children seldom complain about eye problems, so how are parents to know if anything is wrong with their child’s vision? If your child had something wrong with his or her vision, would you know it?

The Vision Is Priceless Council screens thousands of children and adults through visits to private and parochial schools, libraries and day-care facilities and other community facilities. Not too long ago, VIP Council’s experienced staff visited Orange Park Christian Academy. They screened hundreds of children — and confirmed a young mother’s concern about her child’s vision.

During the visit, Shawn Curtis had his vision screened. Like any 9-year-old boy, he likes to run and play and just simply be a kid. Shawn was born prematurely at 29 weeks, weighing only 2 pounds, 14 ounces, and his mother, Vanessa, has always questioned the strength of his left eye.

“Shawn was born so early, and I knew that could be an indication of eye problems. I’ve always wondered if something was wrong with his left eye because it seemed weaker,” said Vanessa Curtis. “I didn’t know for sure, and I was really concerned and relieved when Vision Is Priceless told us about Shawn’s possible problem. If not for VIP we may have found out too late.”

Shawn’s vision problem was detected by Vision Is Priceless during the screening, and the organization sent a letter to his parents. The letter advised them to take Shawn to an eye care professional for a complete examination.

Flora Chen checked Shawn’s vision and found he had myopia in his left eye and that his vision was 20/50 in that eye.

“The great thing is that the problem was recognized early, and it was treatable,” said Chen.

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a vision problem experienced by about a third of the population. It causes people to have problems seeing objects at a distance, though they can still see fine for activities like reading a book or writing. Myopic people often have headaches or eyestrain and may squint in order to make out images at long distances. They may often feel eye fatigue when playing sports or driving.

“It was like night and day for him [Shawn]; he really can see now, and I don’t have to worry about his vision like I used to,” said Vanessa Curtis. “I am so happy that Orange Park Christian Academy had VIP come out to the school. I really thank both of them because they really did change Shawn’s way of seeing things.”

Many parents may think their child’s vision is just fine, but this story is an example of one mother whose doubts prove that children should have annual vision screenings. If a vision problem is not corrected, an eye can develop severe problems that could lead to permanent damage. Vision Is Priceless helps children enjoy the vision screening as part of their school day.

The non-profit Vision Is Priceless Council works to preserve the vision of Northeast Florida residents through programs such as free screening and early detection of potential eye disease. For more information, call 308-2020 or visit Jacksonville.com, keyword: vipcouncil.

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