Dr. Arian Fartash, also known as the Glam Optometrist, wants more parents to prioritize their children’s vision.
You already know the importance of healthy vision as an adult — it helps you navigate the world and perform basic daily tasks. For children, healthy vision is just as important, if not more so, as suboptimal vision can directly impact a child’s ability to excel in academia and life in general.
“I think eye exams are so important to get before going back to school, because they tell a wealth of information,” said Dr. Fartash, who has run the Glam Optometrist blog since 2015. “You want to make sure [kids are] at their tip-top best when they’re starting a new grade.”
In 2018, when pregnant with her daughter, Dr. Fartash started GlamBaby, a company that offers stylish blue light glasses for kids and other kid-friendly eye care products.
“Twenty-five percent of learning is visual,” Fartash added, “so if they’re not seeing their best, they’re not learning their best, and their confidence level goes down.”
Protecting kids’ vision
Getting an annual physical at the pediatrician is important for ensuring overall health, but the eye exams performed in this setting are usually insufficient, Fartash said. They typically involve the physician holding a chart of letters progressively farther away from the patient, and then asking the patient to voice the letters they see. Fartash called this a “gross screening” and emphasized that seeing an optometrist or ophthalmologist, who has the proper equipment and knowledge to screen for any and all possible vision issues, is imperative.
“We’re going to dilate their eyes or look in the back of the eyes to make sure they don’t have anything going on health-wise,” said Fartash, who added that because kids don’t have a concept for what 20/20 vision feels like, it’s up to parents to advocate for proper screening to identify potential problems.
Fartash recommends parents look for symptoms such as eye rubbing or tearing, which could be warning flags that something’s gone amiss with their child’s vision. Regardless, she suggested a vision exam with an eye doctor when kids are 6 months old, 4 years old, and then annually from age five.
In the age of COVID-19, with increased remote learning, Fartash has observed more children developing an astigmatism, which is a common eye condition marked by an abnormally shaped cornea or lens, which results in blurry vision with near and far sight, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Nearsightedness is another eye problem Fartash has noticed an increased prevalence of during the current pandemic, and this may be the result of more frequent screen time with remote learning. Dry eyes and frontal headaches are furthermore becoming more common among kids. Taking breaks from screen time every 20 minutes, using artificial tears, and taking advantage of blue light products like glasses can help reduce eye pain and strain, she said.
Making eye care fashionable
Through GlamBaby, which sells protective eyewear for kids in Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Maisonette, Fartash hopes to make stylish eye care more accessible and approachable for children and the parents caring for them.
“Optometry isn’t nerdy — it’s fashion!” she said. “Even with my adult patients, I love to grab them colorful stuff, not just the black or tortoise things, that really speak to them or that they wouldn’t think about wearing. Once they put it on, they’re like, ‘Wow, I really love this; I look so good in it.’”
The same goes for kids, Fartash said. “[Kids] love to express themselves, even more so than adults,” she explained. “They’re less guarded.”
Soon, GlamBaby will launch cleansing and eye care products for kids, including an eye spray for eye boogers, a stye kit, and a tear duct massager.
“They’re going to be on technology their whole life,” Fartash said. “Let’s start protecting them now so they don’t have eye health problems later.”