Eye Exams for Children
The Importance of Early Detection
Vision develops rapidly after birth. Any undetected vision problem can have a significant impact on infant and childhood development. The earlier a problem is detected and treated, the less likely it is that other areas of development will be affected.
It is recommended that infants have their first vision examination at six months of age. This initial assessment can detect any eye or visual abnormalities which were present at birth or which might develop shortly thereafter. Even if no problems are found, a second examination should be conducted at age three, and a third prior to entering school at age five or six.
Pre-School Vision Exams
A vision examination is a very important step in preparing children for that first day of school. During the school years, good vision is essential to the ability to read and to learn. Any vision problems need to be detected and treated before they lead to a learning and/or behavior problem.
If the pre-school or kindergarten offers a free vision screening, be aware that the screening might be incomplete. Many free school vision screenings do not test important visual skills, including eye teaming (binocular vision). Children need a comprehensive pre-school vision examination.Once in school, children should have a professional vision examination at least once every two years. Children considered at risk for the development of eye and vision problems may need more frequent re-evaluation.
Annual Eye Exams for Children: As Important as Visits to Pediatricians
Annual visits to pediatricians are important to keeping children healthy and ensuring proper childhood development. But what most parents don't realize is that annual eye exams are equally as important. Our eyes also need to be examined for proper development, as well as for early detection of possible vision issues that could impair eyesight for life.
"I've been examining children's eyes for more than 27 years," says optometrist Nick Brattis, "and I've seen many times where diagnosing and treating an eye disorder early in life meant a positive outcome for the child."
When is the First Eye Exam Needed?
During infancy, a child's vision is constantly changing. In the earliest months of their lives, babies can only focus on close-up objects, and they see only high contrast colors, such as black, white, and red. At six months of age, however, visual acuity sharpens. It is at this point that babies should have their vision examined by an eye doctor to ensure that their eyes perform as a team, working together. If not, one or both eyes may be affected and that could lead to a lifetime of poor vision.
From this point on during childhood development, eye exams should become an annual ritual, just like annual check-ups at the pediatrician's office.
What Can Be Detected in an Eye Exam?
Children's eye exams can identify nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism, conditions that can be easily remedied with prescription glasses. But an eye exam can also detect amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus. Strabismus is condition in which the eyes don't look in unison at the same object. Strabismus is a physical disorder; amblyopia is the visual consequence. Amblyopia and strabismus are most effectively treated when detected early. Treatment includes visual therapy and, often, surgery. Left undetected or untreated, blurry or double-vision may be a lasting result.
Be sure to take your children for annual exams. Healthy vision is essential to a child's ability to learn and achieve their academic potential, as well to play sports and other activities.