Children’s eye exams are so much more than determining whether or not a child has 20/20 vision. They are a crucial part of protecting the ocular health of our children’s eyes, as well as promoting learning and development. Comprehensive eye evaluations for children go beyond determining whether or not glasses are needed; instead they extensively assess visual function to ensure the eye, and the visual system, is working properly, and confirm that there are no potential ocular health risks present. Read on to learn more about the importance of eye exams for children.
When is it Time for a Child’s Eye Exam?
Guidelines from the American Optometric Association state that children should receive comprehensive eye examinations when they are six-months-old, again at age three, then once more before beginning grade school. The eyes and visual system are continuously developing throughout childhood, so multiple visits with an optometrist allows the doctor to see the child through several critical developmental milestones. If a visit to the optometrist at any age reveals an abnormality or possible health risk, the doctor will likely require sooner and more frequent follow-ups and evaluations throughout childhood. Factors such as low birth weight, prematurity, or family history of eye diseases or a lazy eye may also warrant sooner or more frequent evaluation.
What to Expect at Your Kid’s Eye Exam
The tests performed at eye examinations for children may vary based on the age and abilities of the child being evaluated. However, all tests performed will focus on evaluating the visual system and ensuring the child can perform age-appropriate visual tasks. At six-months-old, a child is not expected to see a perfect 20/20, and they are not able to respond to questions regarding their vision. At these exams, the doctor will use a variety of objective methods to determine whether the child’s refractive error, or potential prescription, is within normal limits. They will also fully evaluate ocular health, looking thoroughly at both the front and back of the eye. At three-years old, the child should be able to more actively participate in the examination by providing feedback. At this point, the doctor will perform a more thorough assessment of visual function, but may still rely on objective findings to determine whether a glasses prescription is necessary. By the third eye examination before grade school, the child should be able to see 20/20 and can give accurate responses regarding glasses prescriptions. At this examination, the doctor may do a series of tests do evaluate more complex abilities of the visual system, such as eye teaming and tracking. At all exams, the doctor will assess the ocular health, which may or may not require dilating eye drops.
Why Are Children’s Eye Examinations Important?
As mentioned earlier, healthy eyes and a healthy visual system means much more than simply being able to see 20/20. Pediatric eye examinations can be vital in diagnosing critical health problems, like retinoblastoma. They also allow for the diagnosis and treatment of conditions that could potential disrupt visual development, such as strabismus, commonly called lazy eye. If the doctor identifies a potential health risk or a problem in visual development, they will be able to properly address the problem to reduce the likelihood of future complications.