Children should have their first eye exam by age 5, unless recommended earlier by their physician. It is important to check for any small eye turns or lazy eyes prior to entering Kindergarten while children are still in their developmental period. During pre-teen years, many eye conditions can be successfully treated where it would be much more difficult or even impossible to correct in later years. After an initial eye exam, children should continue to return for checkups every 1-2 years. Near-sighted teens and pre-teens will have some of the fastest changes in prescription.
Pediatric Eye Exams: Although it’s importance is always agreed upon, pediatric eye care is topic often misunderstood by parents and teachers. While school vision screenings are a helpful way to catch some eye conditions, according to the American Optometric Association, they can miss up to 50% of vision problems. A child’s first eye exam should also be preformed between 6 and 12 months of age.
Infant Vision: Like the ability to talk, crawl, and walk, vision is an acquired skill. Children are not born with 20/20 vision or depth perception. The development of the visual system requires good eye health and proper focus during childhood. By the age of 6 months, infants will have begun to use their eyes together gaining stereopsis or depth perception but require more visual stimulation to continue to develop properly. This is why we recommend the first vision exam between 6 and 12 months of age to assure that a child does not have any problems that will impact proper development of the visual system.
At an infant’s first eye exam, we take a comprehensive look at the entire visual system to look for any significant near-sightedness or far-sightedness, evaluate how a child uses it’s eyes together, and examine the health of the eyes. While rare, conditions like Retinoblastomas (eye cancer) Ptosis (lid droop) and Strabismus (eye turns) can prevent proper development and cause Amblyopia (lazy eye). While eye turns are not uncommon during the first year of childhood.
The next eye exam should be be preformed between 4 and 5 years before the child starts school. Not only is it important for the child to have proper vision when entering school, but as children are still in the developmental period, eye turns and lazy eyes can still be treated relatively easily at this time. As Children enter teenage years it becomes increasingly difficult to make adjustments to aide development of the visual system.
At this age a child’s vision should be similar to that of an adult. Do not wait for a school vision screening to catch potential problems, as a comprehensive eye exam will evaluate much more than just visual acuity, or the ability to discern fine detail.
From kindergarten through high school, eye exams are recommended every year to confirm proper function of the visual system. Development of near-sightedness and far-sightedness most commonly arise in school-aged children. Annual eye examinations will catch these changes early.
As a parent, there are a number of things that you can look for to catch any potential eye problems.
Frequent eye turns in infants, or any eye turns in children over 1 year.
- Excessive tearing
- Red eyes or discharge
- Complaints of headaches or double vision
Any of these issues would demonstrate need for an eye exam before the scheduled appointment.