Children with uncorrected vision conditions or eye health problems face many barriers in life - academically, socially, and even athletically. High-quality eye care can break down these barriers and help enable your children to reach their highest potential. Vision doesn’t just happen. A child’s brain learns how to use eyes to see, just like it learns how to use legs to walk or a mouth to form words. The longer a vision problem goes undiagnosed and untreated, the more a child’s brain accommodates for the vision problem. That is why a comprehensive eye examination is so important for children. Early detection and treatment provide the very best opportunity to correct vision problems, so your child can learn to see clearly.
PEDIATRIC EYE EXAMS
The American Optometric Association recommends that children have their first thorough eye exam with an eye doctor at around 6 months of age. During this examination, the doctor will test for excessive or unequal amounts of nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. Children will also be tested for proper eye movement and screened for eye health problems. While these issues are uncommon, it is important to identify children who have them at this young age as vision development and eye health problems are more easily corrected if treatment begins early. At all four Your Eye Care Team locations we provide these examinations for children under 12 months of age free of charge as a public service. After 12 months of age your child should have another eye examination at age 3 and then once every year beginning at age 5. Children considered to be at risk for the development of eye and vision problems may need additional testing or more frequent re-evaluation. Factors placing an infant, toddler, or child at significant risk for visual impairment include:
Prematurity, low birth weight, oxygen at birth, grade III or IV intraventricular hemorrhage
Family history of retinoblastoma, congenital cataracts, or metabolic or genetic disease
Infection of mother during pregnancy (e.g., rubella, toxoplasmosis, venereal disease, herpes, cytomegalovirus, or AIDS)
Difficult or assisted labor, which may be associated with fetal distress or low Apgar scores
High refractive error
Known or suspected central nervous system dysfunction evidenced by developmental delay, cerebral palsy, dysmorphic features, seizures, or hydrocephalus
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SCHOOL SCREENING AND A PROFESSIONAL EYE EXAM
School vision screenings are designed to check a child’s eyesight, or sharpness of vision but are not intended to replace a thorough, professional eye exam. While screenings can indicate the presence of a vision problem or a potential vision problem, a vision screening cannot diagnose exactly what is wrong with your child’s eyes; instead, it can indicate that you should make an appointment with an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye examination.
10 SIGNS YOUR CHILD MAY NEED AN EYE EXAM
Recognizing when your child may need glasses can be difficult because children often don’t have the verbal skills to express that something is wrong with their vision, or they’ve never known anything different so they don’t realize something is wrong.
Children can develop vision problems at any age, even from birth, and often by the time a child does complain about their vision, the problem may be much more difficult to treat. But there are non-verbal cues parents can look for to tell if their child may need an eye exam. These behaviors include:
Squinting (temporarily improves vision by reducing the size of the blurred image on the back of the retina).
Tilting the head (can be a sign of an eye muscle imbalance or strabismus).
Sitting too close to the TV (may indicate nearsightedness).
Losing place while reading (may be caused by a misshaped cornea (astigmatism) or strabismus).
Covering one eye when watching television or reading (may indicate a vision problem in one eye which, if left uncorrected, may lead to “lazy eye” or amblyopia).
Excessive tearing (may occur as a result of dry eyes if eyes do not close completely during sleep).
Rubbing the eyes (often a sign of eye fatigue or allergies).
Finger pointing while reading (while not always a bad sign, may be an indicator of amblyopia).
Light sensitivity (may be observed in children with exotropia, a type of strabismus).
Headaches, especially frontal headaches or brow aches (may be seen in children with uncorrected farsightedness).