A brief examination of your child's eyes and a vision screening by a pediatrician or family practice doctor is not a substitute for an eye exam performed by an eye doctor. Only optometrists and ophthalmologists have the advanced training and clinical tools to perform a thorough evaluation of your child's eyes and vision. Eye exams for children are very important to insure your child's eyes are healthy and have no vision problems that could interfere with school performance.
Early eye exams also are important because children need the following visual skills that are essential for optimal learning:
- Excellent visual acuity at all distances
- Accurate and comfortable eye teaming skills
- Accurate eye movement skills
- Accurate and comfortable focusing skills
When to have your child's eyes examined
Children should have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age. They then should have their eyes examined at age 3 and just before kindergarten - at about age 5. School-aged children should have an eye exam at least every two years if no vision correction is required. Children who need eyeglasses or contact lenses should be examined annually or as recommended by your eye doctor.
Scheduling your child's eye exam
When scheduling an eye exam for your child, choose a time when he or she is usually alert and happy. Specifics of how eye exams are conducted depend on your child's age, but generally an exam will include a case history, vision testing, determination of whether eyeglasses are needed, testing of eye alignment, an eye health evaluation and, if needed, prescription of eyewear.
In addition to nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, common vision problems include:
- Lazy eye (amblyopia). Your eye doctor will want to rule out amblyopia, or "lazy eye", which is decreased vision in one or both eyes without detectable anatomic damage. Unfortunately, amblyopia is not always correctable with eyeglasses or contact lenses and may require eye patching and vision therapy to strengthen the weaker eye.
- Misalignment of eyes (strabismus). Crossed or misaligned eyes can have different causes, such as problems with muscle control in the affected eye or eyes. Strabismus is a common cause of amblyopia and should be treated early in childhood so vision and eye teaming skill can develop normally.
- Convergence insufficiency. This is the inability to maintain eye alignment when viewing near objects. Convergence insufficiency can cause eye discomfort and even double vision when reading.
- Focusing problems, poor depth perception and color deficiencies. Your eye doctor also may test your child's focusing ability (accommodation), depth perception, color vision and more.
- Eye health problems. Your eye doctor will closely examine your child's eyelids to look for abnormal or infected eyelash follicles, bumps, eye discharge and swelling. The doctor will also examine the cornea, iris, lens, optic nerve, and retina for signs of eye disease.
Vision screening and performance in school
Remember that appropriate vision testing at an early age is vital to insure your child has the visual skills he or she needs to perform well in school. A child who is unable to see print or view a blackboard can become easily frustrated, leading to poor academic performance. Some vision problems, such as lazy eye, are best treated if they are detected and corrected as early as possible while the child's vision system is still developing.
Don't let poor vision hold your child back. Schedule an eye exam with an Isthmus Eye Care doctor today.