If you have a child, you know that monitoring their eye health is an extremely important task. From infancy until the teenage years, it’s important to ensure they’re getting comprehensive eye exams regularly so you know their eyes are healthy and they’re seeing as well as they can. Read below for some guidelines to follow when you’re figuring out when to bring your child in for an eye exam.
A child’s first eye exam
The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that infants should have their first eye exam at the age of six months to ensure their eyes are developing normally. At that age, babies should have the same focusing ability, color recognition and depth perception as adults. Some of the tests an eye doctor will typically perform during this first eye exam include:
- Pupil response: Using a penlight, the eye doctor will shine a light in the child’s eyes, then remove it to gauge whether or not the pupil opens and closes as it should.
- Eyelid and eyeball exam: Also using a penlight, the eye doctor will examine the eyeballs and eyelids to determine such things as whether or not the pupils are the same size, if the lids are drooping and if there are any signs of infection or disease.
- Movement test: This test measures how well your baby can follow an object as the eye doctor moves it around. The doctor will pay particular attention to whether or not both eyes respond the same way.
Pre-school eye exams
As long as your infant’s eye exam resulted in no significant issues, a good time to schedule the next exam is before they enter pre-school. In addition to common vision problems like nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, other issues prevalent at this age and should be tested for include:
- Amblyopia: Also known as “lazy eye,” amblyopia is decreased vision in one or both eyes. This happens when the nerve pathway from one eye to the brain does not develop during childhood. Some common symptoms are one eye turning in or out, the eyes not working together, and decreased depth perception. To treat the issue, a patch is placed over the unaffected eye to strengthen the weaker eye. In some cases, eyeglasses may also be necessary.
- Strabismus:This vision problem is a misalignment of the eyes and is characterized by the eyes crossing, only one moving, or the eyes appearing very different in the way they move. It can be caused by amblyopia and is often due to a problem with muscle control in one or both eyes. If the underlying cause isn’t amblyopia and using an eye patch does not correct the problem, eyeglasses, vision therapy and sometimes surgery are necessary depending on the underlying cause.
During this eye exam your child will also have his or her focusing ability, color vision and depth perception checked to ensure they have all developed properly. The pre-school eye exam is crucial, as detecting problems early is the best way to set your child up for success as they start school and need clear vision to see and what’s on the board.
Eye exams throughout childhood
As your son or daughter progress through childhood and into their teens, they should continue seeing an eye doctor regularly for comprehensive eye exams. If their vision is normal, they should get an eye exam every two years. If they’ve been prescribed eyeglasses or have other vision problems however, an exam should be scheduled every 12 months.
Identifying vision problems as early in life as possible is important because children are typically more responsive to treatment and it’s easier to correct problems before the eyes are fully developed. Help ensure a lifetime of good eye health by starting with infant eye exams and staying consistent with eye doctor visits throughout the years.