Don’t wait until it’s too late to get your child’s eyes checked

Children’s bodies are constantly changing at a rapid pace as they are growing – and their eyes are no exception. While most parents understand the importance for their child to have an annual physical with their family doctor, their eye health often doesn’t gain the same attention. 

Martine Piraino, a mother of three, admits that annual eye exams for her children was never a top priority. It was not until her son, Matteo, was diagnosed with Keratoconus that she realized the importance of eye health and regular comprehensive eye exams. 

Keratoconus is a progressive eye disease in which the normally round cornea thins and begins to form into a cone-like shape, deflecting light and causing distorted vision.

Matteo started showing little known signs of his eye health being compromised when he was six years old. 

Click on the video above to listen to Martine’s message for parents.

“It didn’t seem like Matteo had any problems with his eyes, apart from him always itching and rubbing,” says Martine. “I thought it was due to allergies, so I made him an appointment to see an allergist.”  

Martine was surprised to learn that Matteo did not have any allergies. 

Sixty-one per cent of parents mistakenly believe they would recognize a vision or eye health problem if their child was experiencing symptoms. However, children often can’t identify they have a vision problem, because they don’t know what normal vision looks like. Only a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist can determine if a child has a vision or eye health problem.

Before Matteo’s diagnosis, he says he remembers common things that he remembered to be easy like going on the computer or playing video games became harder because his vision was changing.

When Matteo turned 20, he began showing more worrisome signs. His sister noticed that he was having trouble reading the product description on a computer box when they were out shopping.

Martine thought it was time for Matteo to have his eyes checked, thinking that he would simply only need glasses and booked him an appointment with an optometrist.

“The first optometrist diagnosed Matteo with Keratoconus. We went for a second opinion and got the same diagnosis,” says Martine. “We were told that a surgery called crosslinking would help stop the disease’s progression. So, that’s what we did.”

Matteo’s crosslinking surgery was a success, however the vision he lost will never return.

“Had we taken him to the optometrist sooner, the disease would have been caught and his vision saved,” says Martine. 

OAO recommends that children have their first eye exam at six months-old, another at age three, and annually thereafter to ensure good vision and development. In Ontario, eye exams are covered by OHIP for children up to 19 years-old.