When to Examine Children's Eyes
Do you have children? Have they had an eye examination within the past two years? Ever?If not, then they are certainly due for a checkup. In fact, the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that children have their first complete vision evaluation before they are 6 months old! Obviously, the examination of an infant's vision is much different than the examination of an adult, but many eye and vision problems can be detected at this early age.
The AOA also recommends that children have a vision evaluation at age 3 and age 5. Despite this recommendation, studies show that fewer than 15 percent of children entering kindergarten have ever had a formal eye exam. This special population needs special care. Regular, routine eye and vision evaluations are a vital part of this care.
Vision develops significantly after birth. Newborns will only react to objects that are large, bold, and close to them. New techniques for examining infants have been developed over the last 20 years. Specialists who have been trained in these techniques are now able to complete many components of the adult examination in an infant examination. This enables us to not only detect blurred vision in an infant, but also make sure that an infant's vision will develop well during childhood.
It is important to realize that children may not be aware that they have a vision problem, and may not complain to parents or teachers despite an existing problem. Lazy eye and nearsightedness, two very common vision conditions in children, often exist without symptoms. Only with an examination by an eye care specialist can these conditions be found and properly treated.
Even vision checks in the pediatrician's office or at a vision screening at school do not reveal all problems. Vision checks at the pediatrician's office typically assess clarity of vision, which is only one of the many components of proper eye and vision function. And, school screenings, even if conducted by eye doctors, are only screenings and are not intended to substitute for complete evaluations in an eye doctor's office.
Some school-age children have learning-related vision problems that affect their school performance. Symptoms may include difficulty with handwriting, remembering words, completing work, or confusing similar words/letters. An assessment of visual-information processing and management of any learning-related vision problem may be necessary for these children.
A complete eye and vision examination should include an assessment of:
- Visual clarity
- Eye alignment
- Eye movement and focusing skills (important in reading)
- Refractive error (glasses prescription)
- Eye teamwork
- Eye health (including pupillary dilation for a full inspection of the internal eye)
Children should be examined thoroughly for nearsightedness and farsightedness, astigmatism, lazy eye, crossed or turned eyes, color vision deficiencies, and eye health problems such as congenital cataracts, glaucoma, and optic nerve and retinal problems.
So . . . if your child has not had a recent examination, make an appointment soon. Remember, we all have only one set of eyes, and proper care of this precious gift starts at an early age.