What can I do to fix my reading difficulties?
The ability to read is a crucial part of everyday life, so it can be frustrating when vision problems start to make this difficult. Reading is a complex task that requires the collaboration of many different components of your vision. You need to have strong visual acuity (otherwise known as 'sharpness' of vision), form perception, visual fixation, a good field of vision and more to read text accurately. Sometimes a reading difficulty may be the result of an underlying condition. For example, dyslexia is a reading-related learning disability that can cause letters or numbers to appear reversed or confused on the page. At other times, reading problems can be a sign of problems with your eyesight.
Reading difficulties at school
As a parent, if you notice your child has difficulty with reading or exhibits a reluctance at having to read out loud or write, it's important to take your little one to an optometrist to rule out any vision problems. The earlier you do this, the better, as untreated visual errors could disrupt your child's learning and influence their ability to gain crucial literacy skills. Prolonged problems can also cause your child to feel anxious, embarrassed or frustrated, which can lead to further behavioural issues. Some of the most common vision problems are refractive errors, which means an irregularity in the eyes is affecting their ability to bend light rays properly. This inhibits visual acuity and can be expressed as myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism. Myopia or shortsightedness means your child has difficulty seeing things far away, but no problems when the object is close up. Hyperopia or longsightedness is the opposite, while astigmatism causes blurred vision.
These types of issues can usually be corrected easily with the aid of glasses. Your optometrist will carry out a thorough eye exam on your child to determine the level of correction that is needed, which will be expressed in their prescription. With the correct prescription and glasses, your child's vision will be improved. Contact lenses are not usually recommended for very young children as they require more daily maintenance and upkeep than glasses, but you can talk to your optometrist for more information.
Reading troubles in adults
If you notice your vision is gradually becoming more difficult to read everyday items, such as the subtitles on a cinema or home TV screen, this may be a sign you need to visit the optometrist. Your prescription may have changed or your eyes may now need visual correction where they did not before. Even if you had perfect or near-perfect vision before, most people find their eyesight starts to need some extra help from the age of 40 onwards. It's normal for people of this age group to start having trouble with close up work, for example, and you may experience other symptoms such as dizziness. If your optometrist recommends it, you can get reading glasses to help you for this specific task or you may need to start wearing glasses or contact lenses on a more regular basis. Reading problems can also be present while travelling. If you have issues with reading anything while you're in motion (for example in a bus, plane or car) this could be a sign of motion sickness and it's best to stop and give your eyes a rest. If the problem persists, see your optometrist to rule out anything more serious.
Another common age-related problem is macular degeneration, which causes a loss of central vision. However, if this is only present in one eye it may mean you have to adapt to reading using just the vision from your other eye. Glasses can be made with one 'frosted' lens to block out the vision from that eye, although this can create difficulties with peripheral vision. Central serous retinopathy is a condition characterised by a build up of fluid under the retina, the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye. This can lead to distorted vision and can also cause difficulties for reading.In most cases it will clear up on its own but it tends to reoccur, so make sure to see your optometrist regularly to monitor the condition.
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