Children's Vision Month

Oct 2018

Winnipeg's Health and Wellness Magazine

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E A S T S T. P A U L EYECARE CENTRE 3000 Birds Hill Road, East St. Paul Call 204.663.7564 for appointments WWW.EASTSTPAULEYECARE.CA A full service professional eyecare centre serving East Winnipeg and rural East Manitoba SPECIAL SECTION A S U P P L E M E N T T O T H E W I N N I P E G F R E E P R E S S T H U R S D AY, O C T O B E R 1 1 , 2 0 1 8 A 1 3 These days, few things come free in a society beset by an ever-rising cost of living. There is, however, one thing that does come free in Manitoba: eye exams for children. Yet, roughly only one-third of parents in the province are taking advantage of the perk, says Doctor of Optometry Luke Small. "Many parents don't realize that eye exams for kids are covered by the province right up to 18 years of age," says Small, who practises out of Armstrong & Small Eye Care Centre at 1140 Portage Ave. "Parents should take advantage of the opportunity to regularly monitor the eye health of their kids." According to Small, parents should start eye exams by age three — and then have them performed annually after that. "We'd like parents to see us as family physicians for eye care. Just as you bring your child in for an annual physical exam, you should also bring your child in for an annual eye exam. Doing that gives us the chance to detect any problems early before they become major ones." Why are early eye exams so important? "Simple," says Dr. Small. "Even early on, we can gather lots of information even if a child is not yet talking. For example, we can detect if a child's eyes aren't working together properly, or if there are any underlying eye conditions that need to be monitored." He adds that with eye exams being covered by Manitoba Health there are no excuses for not bringing your child in for a check-up. "There's absolutely no reason to wait. Parents can't detect eye problems unless an eye is obviously turning or if a child is indicating they can't see," said Small. "Screenings at school have limitations and aren't comprehensive enough. If you finally bring your child in at 10 and we find they have amblyopia (or lazy eye where the brain chooses the clearer eye and the wiring to the worse eye develops poorly), it will be more difficult to correct the vision deficit caused by the disorder as the connections have now become essentially hard-wired. Amblyopia can affect future performance in school, behaviour and physical activities, but can be greatly diminished the earlier we catch the problem to make sure that the weaker eye is seeing properly." Major ocular issues are often caught when infants are seen by the Pediatrician and then referred on to Pediatric Ophthalmology. Small says Doctors of Optometry work closely with these specialists and recommends having your child seen by a Doctor of Optometry anyways during the waiting period. "If something is discovered by your Pediatrician early on and they refer your child to the Pediatric Ophthalmologist, it's still acceptable to bring your child in to a Doctor of Optometry while you wait. Wait times for ophthalmology can be long and at the very least, we can reassure you and triage the concern for the specialist," Small said. "In many cases, we can come up with a course of action — such as eyeglasses — that might be able to solve the eye issue or potentially speed up the referral process if quicker action is required." Likewise, newcomer families to Canada should also bring their children in for an exam. "Some families that haven't had easy access to eye care in their home country bring in their kids at 14, and while they sometimes have vision problems, we can do so much, even by simply prescribing glasses," Small said. "The key is to bring your kids in so we can figure out a way to help them see better." He adds that even seemingly minor vision issues can be treated by Doctors of Optometry. "Little kids will sometimes get foreign bodies stuck in their eye that can cause a corneal abrasion," notes Small. "We have equipment called a slit lamp (a special microscope with a light) that we use to detect what's in the eye. We also have the proper tools needed to safely remove the object — a bug, a small piece of wood or metal, or chunk of a leaf. Bring your kids in to us. Many Doctors of Optometry are open in the evening and on Saturdays. We can often do a better job than a walk-in clinic simply based on the equipment we have." Small says there's no need for kids to fear a visit to a Doctor of Optometry. "Kids' eye exams can be fun, and they don't take that long to do," Small said. "Most importantly, they allow us to detect problems early. Not only can we prevent future problems, but we can also treat day-to-day problems too. We're your family physicians of eye care; families need to come in and take advantage of all we have to offer!" ■ VIEW ONLINE AT For advertising information, call: 204-697-7389 CHILDREN'S VISION MONTH 'FAMILY PHYSICIANS' OF EYE CARE "Kids' eye exams can be fun, and they don't take that long to do." BY TODD LEWYS FOR THE FREE PRESS Dr. Luke Small with some of the kid-friendly vision-testing tools and props he uses. Photo by Jason Halstead

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