Parents naturally want to ensure that their children are healthy and not suffering from any undiagnosed problems. With that in mind many wonder, if and when they should take their child for an eye exam.
Most eye doctors will examine a child after the child is six-months old. At this eye exam, the infant is evaluated for major delays or other conditions which present early in life.
While an eye exam on a young infant will look very different than that of an adult, the core principles are the same.
The child’s vision is assessed using either retinoscopy or black and white line gratings. This allows the eye doctor to determine if the child needs glasses to achieve clear vision and develop at a normal rate.
Most infants will not require glasses as they can function with slightly blurred vision and their eyes will continue to grow and develop as they age.
Also during the exam, the eye doctor will check the health of the child’s eyes. Both the front and the back of the eyes is assessed and things such as infections, underdeveloped nerve tissue, and even tumors can be detected and treated.
In the absence of any other risk factors, a child should be examined once between six-months and one year and then at least once every other year until they begin school.
Additionally, if any visual or eye related problems develop, the child should be examined sooner or more frequently.
By the time children are school aged, they have developed near adult level vision. This also coincides with the start of detailed tasks such as reading and looking at a dry erase or chalk board.
Eye doctors can examine many school aged children in the same manner as an adult and need to only make small modifications.
Some changes may include using shapes instead of letters for the vision chart, using the air puff test instead of tonometry which requires the child to be much more still and fixate longer, or having the child come in on more than one day to complete an exam.
Many children will have vision problems and not complain about eye strain or blurred vision because they do not understand that it is abnormal, and everyone does not experience these symptoms.
In an exam on school aged children, an eye doctor can determine if glasses are needed, if contact lenses may be an option, and find many eye and vision conditions.
Conditions such as amblyopia, convergence insufficiency, and oculomotor dysfunction are often found in school aged children who have passed a screening at a pediatrician’s office or at school.
For school aged children, an eye examination should be done before starting school and then yearly after that.
As the child grows and the demand on their vision changes, their need for glasses or other treatments may change in a year or less.
It is not uncommon for a child’s glasses prescription to change a significant amount year to year and an annual exam is an important way to catch any potential change.