If you’re the parent of a young child, you may be wondering if it’s time to set up their first eye appointment. Unless your son or daughter is younger than 6 months of age, the answer is “yes” according to the American Optometric Association or AOA. Eye exams for children are extremely important. One in four elementary school age children have an undetected vision problem and good eyesight is crucial for learning.
After an initial infant comprehensive eye exam around six months, the AOA recommends children have additional exams at age 3, just before first grade¬–at about 5 or 6, and then every two years after that if no vision correction is required. Children who need eyeglasses or contact lenses should be examined annually. .
What to expect
Often the first medical professional to examine your child’s eyes is a pediatrician or family doctor. If a problem is suspected, a referral to an eye doctor may be made. The doctor will likely ask about your child’s perinatal (birth) history, medical, and family history. If your child is an infant, the doctor will check if your baby’s eyes are responsive to light and whether they can fixate and follow objects. For pre-school age children, some common tests include an LEA Symbol test (like an eye chart only with symbols instead of letters), a opthalmoscopy for looking at the back of the eye, and a random dot stereopsis for determining if your child’s eyes can work well together.
Common vision problems for children
If your child is diagnosed with a problem at their eye exam, most likely it will be nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, or a combination. However, there are some other less common conditions that tend to show up in school-aged children such as:
- Amblyopia (also known as lazy eye) in which in which normal vision can’t be achieved, typically in one eye
- Strabismus (also known as crossed eyes ) in which the eyes don’t maintain proper alignment
- Convergence insufficiency in which the eyes don’t work together during focusing up close when reading or doing close work
Your child’s first trip to the optometrist is an important step in maintaining your child’s health and ensuring his or her ability to learn and grow.