Pediatric Eye Exams

Pediatric Eye Exams

Regular eye exams are important for children since their eyes can change significantly in as little as a year as the muscles and tissue are developing. Good eyesight is critical for a child’s success in learning.  School demands intense visual involvement, including reading, writing, computer work, and smartboard work.  If their eyes aren’t working well together, a child may get eye strain, have trouble with reading comprehension, and experience difficulty concentrating. Even physical activities and sports require strong vision.

Vision screenings only test your child’s ability to see clearly in the distance.  If there is a special camera used during the screening, the person performing the testing is likely not an Ophthalmic Licensed individual and they only know what the camera is telling them.  This will cause many eye issues to go undetected as they give the child’s parents and teachers the false impression that there is nothing wrong with the child’s eyes.  The screenings do not at all evaluate how well the eyes focus up close or work together and do not evaluate the health of the eyes.  Most individuals performing the vision screenings do not have the tools or knowledge to give you a complete assessment of your child’s vision or eye health.

When To Perform A Pediatric Eye Exam?

According to research, a child should have an initial screening between 6 and 18 months of age.  A critical period of a child’s brain development in the visual area occurs at 2 years of age, so if they have an eye issue that isn’t caught until after that critical period has occurred, they may never have optimal visual development.  Children younger than 6 are not expected to answer subjectively during testing, their testing is done objectively by the doctor, so you shouldn’t be concerned if you feel that your child may not give accurate answers. 

Age 6-18 months:  This examination includes a gross visual acuity check, an eye muscle check, objective testing to determine if they have a prescription that requires glasses for normal development, a check for a lazy eye (Amblyopia), and an ocular health assessment.

Age 3-4 years: This examination includes more precise visual acuity testing using pictures and a matching card, an eye muscle check, objective testing to determine if they have a prescription that requires glasses for normal development, a check for a lazy eye (Amblyopia), and an ocular health assessment.

Age 5 and above: At School age or upon entering school, the child’s eyes should be screened for visual acuity and alignment.   A child is now able to answer more questions and read the acuity chart more reliably.  Objective testing is still used at the younger ages or if the doctor feels that the child’s responses are not reliable. 

There are some signs that parents can tell if their child has a vision problem. For example, the child may blink or squint excessively, hold reading materials very close to their face, or complain about things appearing blurry. However, there are some less obvious signs that may indicate vision problems, such as having poor coloring skills, bad handwriting, a short attention span, quickly losing interest in games, projects or activities that require using their eyes for an extended period of time, or losing their place when reading.  They may choose to avoid reading, drawing, playing games or doing other projects that require focusing up close as it causes pain, fatigue, or frustration. Another sign is that a child may turn his or her head to the side when looking at something in front of them.

That’s why it is so important for kids to have regular eye screenings with an Optometrist. The earlier a vision issue is diagnosed and treated, the better their vision will be for the rest of their life.

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