Pediatric eye exams with an eye doctor with the training and experience in managing the visual needs of children are an essential part of your child’s healthy development.
Of all their senses, children learn mostly through their sense of sight, so if your child is having difficulty seeing clearly, their learning can be affected. This is especially true for infants, as their physical development and learning about the world around them is largely obtained through their eyes.
To ensure that your child’s visual system is allowing them to grow and develop normally, be sure they undergo a comprehensive eye exam by a pediatric eye doctor at specific stages of their development.
Baby’s First Eye Exam At Bayshore Optical or Vision i Care
A baby’s visual system develops gradually over the first few months of life. They have to learn to focus and move their eyes, and to use their eyes as a team. The baby’s brain also needs to learn how to process the visual information sent from their eyes to understand and interact with the world. The foundation for motor development, such as crawling, walking and hand-eye coordination, is very reliant on the development of eyesight.
What Will My Baby’s First Eye Exam Be Like?
You should schedule your baby’s first eye exam for 6 months of age. At this exam, the eye doctor will check for eye infections, eye health and whether the baby has an eye condition like eye turn or congenital cataracts.Because babies can’t speak, their eye doctor will determine whether your child reacts to light. Can they move their eyes to follow a moving toy or a face they recognize? Do both eyes appear to look in the same direction?
The eye doctor may also temporarily dilate your baby’s pupils with dilating eye drops and use an instrument known as a retinoscope to check for signs of myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness).
There are special eyeglasses designed specifically for small children and infants, in case your eye doctor finds that your baby’s eyes need optical correction.
When Should I Bring My Baby For A Follow-Up Exam?
Based on your child’s development, and whether or not the eye doctor found any areas of concern, your optometrist will tell you when to schedule a follow-up exam. In general, a second eye exam should occur around a year later or before your child’s second birthday. However, since there is a higher risk of eye and vision problems if your infant was born premature or is showing signs of developmental delay, your eye doctor may require more frequent visits to monitor their progress.
Vision Check-Ups With Your Toddler and Preschool Optometrist
The toddler and preschool age is a period when children experience dramatic growth in intellectual and motor skills. During this time they will develop fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and perceptual abilities that will prepare them to read and write, play sports and participate in creative activities such as drawing, sculpting and building. Visual problems can impede this progress, or the eyes might suddenly show an obvious condition such as lazy eye or eye turn.
What Can I Expect at a Toddler and Pre-School Eye Exam?
During their eye exam, your child’s eye doctor will check for common refractive errors such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism. They will also assess your child’s visual system for signs of certain problems that can develop or become apparent around this age, including strabismus (misalignment of the eyes or eye turns) and amblyopia (lazy eye).
Your child’s visual focusing ability as well as depth perception and color vision will also be evaluated by their optometrist.
At this age, the best way pediatric optometrists can test your child’s vision is by making it fun.
Tools they may use include eye chart tests with pictures or letters (depending on whether your child recognizes letters yet), as well as engaging toys and games.
The doctor may also use special eye drops to dilate your preschooler’s pupils, in order to get a better look at their retina, optic nerve and blood vessels.
When Should I Follow Up With My Child’s Pediatric Eye Doctor?
As your toddler grows into a preschooler, you should be bringing them to their pediatric optometrist at least every two years, even if you see no signs of visual problems. However, if at any point you notice your child squinting, rubbing their eyes frequently, sitting very close to the TV or reading material, or generally avoiding activities such as puzzles or coloring, you should follow-up with the optometrist as soon as possible to check for vision issues that could worsen without prompt treatment.
Eye Exams For Kids Ages 6-18
Undetected or uncorrected vision problems can cause children and teens to suffer academically, socially, athletically and personally. If your child is having trouble in school or during after-school activities, they could have an underlying visual problem. Proper learning, motor development, reading, and many other skills are dependent upon not only good vision, but also the ability of the eyes to work together in unison.
Children who have problems with visual focus, reading, eye teaming or hand-eye coordination will often experience frustration, and may exhibit behavioral problems. Often, they don’t realize they have a problem, so they can’t express that they need help.
The Eye Exam At Our Optometry Practices in Pasadena
In addition to basic visual acuity (distance and near vision, or refractive errors) an eye exam for school-age kids may assess the following visual skills that are required for learning:
- Binocular vision: how the eyes work together as a team
- Peripheral vision
- Color vision
- Hand-eye coordination
- Visual tracking
Your child’s eye doctor will also examine the area around the eye and inside the eye to check for any eye diseases or health conditions. You should tell the doctor any of your child’s relevant personal history, such as premature birth, developmental delays, a family history of eye problems, eye injuries or medications the child is taking. This would also be the time to address any concerns or issues your child has that might indicate a vision problem.
What If My Child’s Optometrist Finds A Problem?
If the eye doctor does determine that your child has a vision problem, they may discuss a number of therapeutic options:
- Eyeglasses or contact lenses are the standard solution for correcting refractive errors in children and adults, including nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.
- Myopia management to slow or stop progression of your child’s nearsightedness.
- Vision therapy, a doctor-prescribed treatment program of in-office and at-home eye exercises that can address deficiencies in visual skills and processing such as problems with eye teaming and visual tracking. A dysfunction in visual skills can make reading and learning very difficult.
Most visual problems are much easier to treat when they are detected early, while a child’s eyes and brain are still developing. This is why it’s crucial to schedule regular pediatric eye exams.
Following the guidelines for children’s eye exams and staying alert to any signs of vision problems can help your child reach their full potential. Call Vision i Care to schedule an appointment.
Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Van Huynh
- A: Yes. School vision screenings only assess your child’s eyesight and a handful of visual problems. These basic screenings can’t detect binocular dysfunction or the vast majority of eye conditions and diseases that can do serious harm to your child’s eyes and vision if not detected and treated early.
- A: The younger a child is, the more likely it is that myopia control methods will help. Most pediatric optometrists agree that it’s ideal to begin myopia management before the age of 10, though it can still be effective well into a person’s teens.