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Tyrone Hospital eye professionals discuss farsightedness, a common vision condition in children

Vision screening
Pictured is Elizabeth Fryer a student at the First Presbyterian Church Pre-school in Tyrone as she participates in the vision screening held recently. The vision screening was provided by the Blair County Blind Association with support from a grant that Tyrone Hospital received from the National Institute of Health, National Eye Institute. (Courtesy photo)

Hyperopia, commonly referred to as farsightedness, is a vision condition that occurs in approximately one in six school age children.
Hyperopia is a refractive error of the eye that occurs when the eye does not bend or “refract” light as it enters the eye making it difficult for the eye to focus correctly on objects. Refractive errors, which include hyperopia (farsightedness), myopia (nearsightedness), and astigmatism are seen in approximately 20 percent of children.
Jill Finke, O.D. of Heimer Eye Care Associates in Tyrone said hyperopia is caused by a structural defect of the eye. It may be shorter than normal, the cornea may be flatter than normal, or the lens of the eye may not be positioned correctly, all of these affect the refraction of light in the eye. Genetics also plays a role.
Children with hyperopia can usually see distant objects well, but have trouble focusing on nearby objects.
Dr. Finke said vision problems like hyperopia that are not treated properly can worsen or lead to more serious vision conditions.
“Children with hyperopia need to exert more effort in order to see clearly. The extra effort of the eye causes fatigue and it encourages the eyes to work abnormally which can lead to a wandering or crossed eye (strabismus) or development of a lazy eye (amblyopia).”
Squinting, eye rubbing, lack of interest in school, and difficulty in reading are often seen in children with hyperopia.
The inability to see close objects clearly often means that children with hyperopia will show little interest in reading, or have difficulty reading and doing schoolwork. Dr. Finke explained that a child may perform poorly in school, or even be disruptive in class.
“A child may be viewed as having a behavior problem but it may be that a vision problem is the culprit. If a child cannot see well enough to do school work they may be bored or feel anxious. If they are not able to perform well in school, it can also affect their self esteem.”
Dr. Finke described a number of signs parents can watch for that may suggest their child has a vision problem and they include: difficulty seeing up close, crossed eyes or a wandering eye, consistently sitting too close to the TV or holding a book too close, squinting, tilting their head to see better, frequent eye rubbing when a child is not sleepy, sensitivity to light, excessive tearing, closing one eye to read or watch TV or see better, avoiding activities which require near vision such as coloring or reading, avoiding activities that require distance vision such as playing ball or tag, and complaining of headaches or tired eyes.
The good news about hyperopia is that it is easily treated with eyeglasses. Until the eye fully matures, the sight quality of the child may change so they will need to have regular eye exams and get their eyeglass prescription updated as needed.
Dr. Finke said the general guidelines for children to have vision exams is to have a comprehensive eye exam at age one, age three, and every two years afterwards, especially if there is a family history of any type of vision condition.
According to the American Optometric Association, as much as eighty percent of learning occurs through vision. Uncorrected vision conditions can affect a child’s development and their quality of life. The best way to catch a vision problem is through a comprehensive vision exam.
Tyrone Hospital received a grant from the National Institute of Health, National Eye Institute to conduct vision screenings for preschool age children. Vision screenings have been provided for pre-schoolers at Tyrone Elementary School in partnership with school staff, Tyrone Medical Associates, Heimer Eye Care Associates and students from Tyrone High School’s Health Occupations Technology program. Screenings at other community pre-schools have been provided in partnership with the Blair County Association for the Blind. As part of the grant project, information about children’s vision health is being provided to the community through a series of news articles made possible through the cooperative efforts of Tyrone Hospital, Heimer Eye Care Associates, and The Daily Herald.