A child’s vision is not fully formed upon birth. Their ability to see gradually develops as they grow older. Thus, the need for their eyes to be regularly checked and examined while they are still young. It is recommended that eye exams start as early as within their first year or two, especially if there is a family history of visual problems.
An eye exam is an assessment of a child’s eye health and vision performed by eye experts such as optometrists (OD) and ophthalmologists (eye MD). These doctors specialized in in-depth eye care and treatment. The basic eye screening examination performed by a paediatrician or a general doctor cannot be considered as a formal eye exam. As eye health can be considered as a window to a person’s overall health, it is important to prioritize these when it comes to children.
Here are a couple of things to consider as to why eye exams are really essential for children:
- Unassessed vision problems can interfere with their school activities
- Unknown visual acuity can potentially affect their safety
- Regularly checked eyes can detect possible conditions of diabetes, hypertension, and other conditions that can be predicted by the retinal blood supply and blood vessels
So when taking a child to an eye exam, make sure that the following are assessed and are made known (and to be improved and treated, if there is a need to):
- A child’s visual acuity at all distances
- Accurate and comfortable eye teaming skills
- Accurate eye movement skills
- Accurate and comfortable focusing skills
Knowing all of these can equip a parent, guardian, or a teacher on how to optimize a child for learning and development.
Below are some answers to frequently asked questions regarding eye exams that can definitely help anyone planning on taking their child to see an eye doctor:
When is the best time to have a child’s eye examined?
As mentioned earlier, a child should have their eyes examined as early as within their first year. It can actually already be done by the child’s 6th month.
It should then be followed by another eye exam by the time they get to the age of 3, then at the age of 5. This is a good preparation for the child especially as they are about to enter school by this age.
For children with no detected vision problems, it is recommended to have their eyes examined at least every two years while annual examinations are recommended for children who wear eyeglasses or contact lenses. You can learn more about the risks of wearing contact lenses here.
How to prepare for the child’s eye exam?
Just like any medical check-ups, an eye exam starts with finding a good ophthalmologist or optometrist. Once a preferred one is found, set up an appointment. In most cases, the clinic or hospital will initially be requiring the parent to fill out forms asking of the child’s basic information as well as his/her case history. Case history, however, is not limited to the child’s visual health but would also include the child’s birth history. Some examples would be: weight when born, is he/she premature, was he/she delivered normal, and among others. But nevertheless, make sure to also write down all observations and experiences of the child’s with regards to visual health as needed.
What is expected in an eye exam?
Specifics on how an eye exams are conducted depends on the child’s age but generally, an eye exam will have the following activities:
- Case History – commonly, the eye doctor will verify all information in the child’s form and will ask other follow up questions or clarifications
- Vision Testing – the eye doctor will use different methods and tools to evaluate the child’s vision; in this activity also is where the eye doctor can determine if there is a need for treatments, wearing of glasses, and others
- Testing of Eye Alignment
- Eye Health Evaluation
- Prescription of Eyeglasses or Contacts (if needed)
Make sure that children are in their best moods, preferably alert and happy, when taken to an eye exam. This will be a great comfort for both the child and the eye doctor.
What are the common eye testing done for infants?
Naturally, babies are already able to see by the time they are 6 months old. By that time, their focusing ability, color vision and depth perception is forming as well as adults.
The eye doctor will generally do the following tests in order to assess the infant’s eye developments:
- Tests of pupil responses – this is done to evaluate whether the pupil opens or closes properly in the absence or presence of light
- “Fixate and Follow” – this determines whether the infant can fixate and follow an object (it is expected that an infant will be able to properly do this at 3 months)
- Preferential Looking – this is using of blank and stripe cards to assess the vision capabilities of an infant without using the actual eye chart
What are the common eye testing done for preschool children?
Here are a list of common eye testing methods used in assessing preschool children:
- LEA Symbols – this is like ordinary eye charts except that instead of letters, it has symbols like apples, houses, and the like
- Retinoscopy – involves shining a light into the child’s retina; this test determines if the child has a clouding of the lens of the eye
- Random dot stereopsis – uses special patterns of dot to measure how the child’s eye work as a team
What are the common eye problems detected in a child’s eye exams?
The most common detected problems would be:
These common eye problems are usually prescribed with correction eyeglasses depending on the grade of their eyes as per their doctor’s advice.
The more uncommon but also possibly detected eye problems are the following:
- Lazy eye or amblyopia – decreased vision in one or both eyes
- Misalignment of eyes or strabismus – crossed or misalignment of eyes is also usually caused by amblyopia
- Convergence insurgency – the inability to maintain eye alignment when viewing near objects
- Focusing problems
- Poor depth perception
- Colour Blindness
- Other eye health problems – this may include infected eyelash follicles, bumps, eye discharge, swelling, among others
For these eye problems, eye doctors will probably prescribe more than just eyeglasses. There would be treatments and other therapies involved.
These are some of the pressing concerns as to why an eye exam is important. This will also set as a guideline for what to expect, prepare, and take note in before, during and after having your child undergo an eye exam.
Remember that early detection of these problems can help save the child to further damage their eyes. The earlier they are assessed and treated can greatly improve their qualities. Let us help and guide our children to see and discover their bright future.