Do you squint at the board when you're seated in the back of your classroom? Do street signs look blurry to you, even when you're not far from them? Do you turn or tilt your head or hold your book close to your eyes when you're reading?

Maybe you need to have your eyes examined! Kids need to get a thorough eye exam at least every two years, eye specialists say. An eye exam can help determine whether you need glasses or contact lenses to help you see better.

Ever since you were a baby, you have been using your eyes to learn about the world around you. So it's important to take the best possible care of them--from getting corrective lenses if you need them to protecting your eyes from injury.

Each year, as many as 1 million children suffer eye injuries, reports the American Academy of Ophthalmology, a professional organization of physicians who specialize in the eye.

Most eye injuries among kids are sports-related, according to Evelyn Paysse, an eye specialist at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. For that reason, Paysse says, "parents, schools and teams should make it standard practice for everyone playing sports to wear safety goggles."

Eye experts say 90 percent of all eye injuries can be prevented. In the same way that wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle can protect your head, eye protectors can protect your vision. Safety glasses, sports eye protectors and goggles are designed to protect your eyes from flying objects, sand and dirt. They are made of a strong, flexible plastic--the same plastic used in the windshields of airplanes. Sports eye protectors are strapped to your head so they won't fall off during active sports such as basketball.

If you're buying protective gear, be sure the label on it says "ASTM F803-88 and ANSI Z87.1." This means the equipment meets tough safety standards established by the American Society for Testing Materials and the American National Standards Institute.

It's important to remember that regular prescription glasses or contact lenses will not protect your eyes. Glasses and some types of contact lenses can even shatter if your eye is hit. If you play sports and wear prescription glasses, you can have special glasses or prescription goggles made for you.

The world is full of things to see--so keep your eyes healthy.

Tips for Parents

"Prevention" is the best advice parents can use to help ensure eye safety. Children can sustain eye injuries from accidents in the home, warns Evelyn Paysse, a physician with the ophthalmology service at Texas Children's Hospital and an assistant professor of ophthalmology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "Children will often be around a parent who is working with a power tool or other motorized device in which a loose object can fly out, causing eye trauma. If kids must be around these tools, their eyes should be properly protected." If an eye emergency does occur, it is important to remember what to do. Paysse offers these tips:

* For a chemical burn to the eye, rinse the area profusely with water. Call the emergency room to find out what else can be done, then proceed to the hospital immediately.

* If a projectile has injured the eye, place a protective shield, such as a Styrofoam cup, on the bone around the eye and go to the emergency room immediately. It is important that no pressure is placed on the eye itself.

For You to Do

What's your "Eye Q"? Take the following quiz, adapted from a longer version published on the Better Vision Institute's Web site,

1. Poor vision is often the leading cause of learning problems in students. True or false?

2. Vision testing by elementary school nurses detects vision problems in most children. True or false?

3. I will know if there is something wrong with my eyes. True or false?

4. Children's visual systems are not completely developed until they are teenagers. True or false?

5. Children usually outgrow crossed eyes. True or false?

Answers are at the bottom of Page 23.

Answers to How and Why Questions

1. True. One in four children between the ages of 5 and 12 has a vision problem that can affect learning ability.

2. False. Traditional eye-chart screenings only test distance vision, not other vision disorders that may affect learning.

3. False. There are a number of so-called "silent" eye diseases, including glaucoma, that can lead to complications and blindness if not detected early.

4. False. A child's visual system is finished developing by age 9, making it extremely important to catch any vision difficulties early on.

5. False. Children can't outgrow crossed eyes. Crossed eyes--a condition known as strabismus--must be corrected by eyeglasses, surgery or eye drops.