For young children, there’s no time like the present to start scheduling regular eye exams. After all, children depend on their eyes for up to 80 percent of their learning processes. Know when to start scheduling eye exams for your child, and understand what kinds of issues eye doctors look for.
WHEN TO START
The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that most children receive their first eye exam at 6 months of age. Children who are at risk for developing eye problems, however, may need to be tested even earlier. The AOA considers children with low birth weight, family history of retinoblastoma, high refractive error, nervous system dysfunction, and several other conditions to be at risk of developing vision issues.
WHAT THE FIRST EYE EXAM COVERS
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A baby’s first eye exam covers all the basics, making sure that both eyes focus, ensuring that eyes are straight, and checking for signs of internal eye disease. The first eye exam, which a pediatrician often performs, includes the following:
- Taking the family history: Pediatricians typically start by noting your child’s family history, including any instances of poor eye health or vision trouble.
- Performing a penlight exam: This brief visual exam allows pediatricians to check for pupil uniformity, firm lids, normal lashes, and potential allergies.
- Checking eye movement: Pediatricians rely on eye movement tests to see how well your child’s eyes follow moving objects and to confirm that they work together to track objects.
- Conducting a light reaction test: Using an ophthalmoscope, doctors look into your child’s eyes to detect signs of cataracts, tumors, and other abnormalities.
WHAT EYE DOCTORS LOOK FOR
If the doctor detects any abnormalities, he or she may recommend treatment or more frequent testing for your child. The doctor may also refer you and your child to an optometrist for a more specialized exam. After all, the first year is one of the most important for eye and vision development. Finding and treating vision issues early can make all the difference in encouraging your child’s growth and good health.
Though the first exam should detect major eye problems, doctors often recommend watching your child for abnormal developments. If your child’s eyes don’t move together, or if they appear to jump or wiggle, call your eye doctor for additional testing. An eye injury should also be cause for concern, as should any sign that your child’s vision isn’t developing normally.
HOW OFTEN TO SCHEDULE EYE EXAMS
After the first eye exam, doctors recommend scheduling follow-up exams at 3 years of age and before your child enters first grade. After that, children should have regular eye exams every two years to ensure that they have all the tools they need for learning, including near and distance vision, focusing skills, peripheral awareness, and much more. At-risk children should receive an eye exam every year.
Don’t wait to get your child’s eyes checked. Start early, giving your child the tools for learning and development by scheduling regular eye exams.