Believe it or not, we’re all going to be getting into back-to-school mode soon. While we’re squeezing in our kids’ physicals, buying sneakers, and making sure everyone has the right notebooks, let’s not forget about eye exams! Did you know that squinting, eye rubbing and trouble learning may be related to vision problems? Access Eye has optometrists and two board-certified ophthalmologists on staff to make sure your little ones are set with the correct eyewear when school starts.

Tell us a little about what makes Access Eye stand out.

Access Eye has been a part of the Fredericksburg region for nearly 40 years. With five locations and a very wide range of services, Access Eye meets the needs of nearly every member of your family. Our approach has always been comprehensive eye health. We do have elements of fun and fashion in our industry! In our five optical departments, we carry a wide variety of designer and budget-friendly frames that are certain to meet the style and taste of many. However, attending to your overall eye health is the forefront of what our practices stand for is. Our optometrists perform one of the most comprehensive exams in the region. If there is a need for additional care, we have two board-certified ophthalmologists whom your optometrist works hand-in-hand with to assess your needs and provide appropriate treatment.

Should my child have routine eye exams outside of their yearly check up?

Absolutely! It is recommended that children have a comprehensive eye exam every one to two years. Access Eye has seven optometrists who can assist you. Dr. Tracy Dzibela, at our Falmouth location, and Dr. Derek Evans, at our Plank Road location, care for most of our small patients.

At what age should I start having my child’s eyes examined?

The American Optometric Association recommends that all children have an exam at 6 months, 3 years, before first grade and then every one to two years after that. Babies at the age of 6 months are generally scheduled with a pediatric ophthalmologist. We have a great relationship with a highly skilled doctor at Virginia Commonwealth University, Dr. Evan Silverstein, who also sees patients in Fredericksburg. Once your child has reached the age of 3, we begin your care here at Access Eye.

What are the signs my child may need glasses?

Signs to look for include squinting, covering an eye, eye rubbing, disinterest in or trouble reading or performing school work. It’s important to realize that you may not recognize any signs. That’s why regular eye exams are extremely important, not just for visual correction, but also to check the overall eye health.

Can my tween wear contacts? What is a good age to start wearing them?

There’s really no set age to begin wearing contacts, however, they are a medical device that if not properly cared for can lead to longstanding eye damage. Your child can be fit with contacts only after you and he or she decides they are ready.

My child loves to play sports. Is it safe for them to wear contacts or glasses?

Absolutely. If your child wears glasses, sports goggles are always recommended. The fit is more secure and comes in a variety of options. Certain sports have goggles made specifically for that sport. For example, skiers, snowboarders, swimmers and scuba divers should have prescription lens goggles made for their sport. Contact lenses are also a great option for sports, but never for swimmers. Contact lenses should always be removed when swimming. Swimming with contacts can result in eye infections, irritation and potential sight-threatening conditions such as a corneal ulcer. The FDA has recommended that contacts not be exposed to ANY type of water, including tap water, swimming pools, oceans, lakes, hot tubs and showers.

How can I tell if my child is near- or far-sighted?

The only way you can know for sure is to bring them in for an eye exam. Certain behaviors can give clues as to whether a child is near or far sighted, but ultimately this needs to be determined by a trained professional who performs a comprehensive eye exam.

Any tips on buying sunglasses for kids?

The rule that should apply to everyone, adults and children is 100% UV protection in your sunglasses. There are a number of eye diseases and conditions caused or aggravated by exposure to UV radiation, such as macular degeneration. It is caused by damage to the retina over time and is the leading cause of age-related blindness. It’s estimated that 10 percent of all cataract cases are directly attributable to UV exposure. A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens — the part of the eye that focuses the light we see. UV light, especially UV-B rays, increases your risk for certain types of cataracts. And of course, we’re all familiar with the risk of cancer. Skin cancer in and around the eyelids is also linked to prolonged UV exposure.

I worry about my child losing or breaking their glasses at recess. Any tips?

This is a hard one, since kids will be kids! Most often we hear that glasses are broken when they fall off and are accidently stepped on. In some cases, especially for younger, active children, sports goggles can work well for daily use. They often have more fitted temples or a strap that prevents the glasses from falling off your child’s face. As often as they can remember, it’s best that children keep their glasses put away safely in their eyeglass case when they are not being worn.

Do you have questions for Access Eye? Ask them during our live Q&A session, “Ask The Expert,” on our Facebook page! We’ll be live chatting August 11, at 8:00 p.m. Come join the conversation!