The frequency with which children should get their eyes checked is much different than what is recommended for an adult. Because children’s eyes grow rapidly in the first three years of life, eye exams during this time are crucial to make sure the eyes are developing the way they should.
Children should get their eyes checked at least every two years, starting at six months old. Getting eye exams early and often is very important for several reasons. Because children are absorbing so much new information every day, eye exams are important for optimal learning and development. During a pediatric eye exam, eye doctors will check for a few different things:
- Visual acuity at all distances
- Accurate and comfortable eye teaming skills
- Progressive eye movement skills
- Focusing skills in accordance with their age
Before your child’s first eye exam, the eye doctor will have you outline a few very important aspects of your child’s health. They’ll ask about a history of prematurity, delayed motor development, excessive eye rubbing or blinking, failure to maintain eye contact, and poor following and tracking skills. These things could all indicate a possible delay in eye development or other possible eye problems that may develop as your child ages.
During the first exam, you can expect the eye doctor to do a series of tests to ensure the proper development of your baby’s eyes. These tests should include:
- Pupil Response Test
- This test will determine if the pupil is responding to light and darkness correctly. A light will quickly be shined on the eye to see how to pupil responds to light.
- Fixate and Follow Test
- A few weeks after birth, children should be able to focus on an object, and by 6 months their eyes should be able to track objects or people. Doctors will test this by having the children focus on something – like a parent – to see if they can fixate and follow.
- Preferential Looking
- This test allows for vision capabilities to be assessed without the typical letter chart. This test will use a card that has one side white and one side with stripes and will determine if a child can focus better.
The doctor will be able to use these tests to determine if your child needs vision assistance, the eyes are not developing as they should, or there are any latent eye diseases that could be treated early on.
The next eye exam should be scheduled for around three years of age. The eyes will be almost fully developed at this point, allowing for a more accurate depiction of potential problems. This eye exam will feature more in-depth tests, including:
- LEA Symbols
- This is based off the Preferential Looking test, but instead of black and colored cards, this test will use cards that feature objects, such as an apple, a house, a square, and a circle, to test the visual acuity.
- This test involves a shining a light into the eye to observe the reflection in the back of the eye (the retina). This test helps determine if there is the possibility for congenital cataracts or other refractive errors.
- Random Dot Stereopsis
- Dots and 3D glasses are used to measure how well the eyes work together and to ensure that joined tracking is progressing properly.
Getting your child’s eyes checked early and routinely is very important to ensure their eyes are maturing properly and there are no latent diseases that could cause problems later in life. These early exams check for some very specific conditions that, when caught early enough, could be fixed or reversed. If left undiagnosed, however, they could permanently affect the eye. These eyes problems could include:
- Amblyopia (lazy eye)
- When a child has a lazy eye, the muscles of one of the eyes are not strong and the eye can appear to float and be “lazy.” This may require an eye patch to be worn over the stronger eye to force the weaker eye muscles to become stronger and allow for them to focus better.
- Strabismus (misalignment of the eyes)
- Strabismus could refer to either crossed eyes or simply misaligned eyes and could lead to amblyopia if not treated early on. This could result from problems with muscle control in the eyes but is easily controlled and adjusted when caught early enough.
- Convergence Insufficiency
- This is the inability to maintain eye alignment with objects that are nearby, the eyes become unfocused and a child may even avoid looking at objects nearby. This can be fixed easily with corrective lenses when found early enough.
Other problems eye doctors can catch early in children include focusing problems, poor depth perception, and color blindness. Getting your child’s eyes checked at the recommended times can prevent struggles in schools that stem from latent eye problems.
At The Eye Doctors, we know your child’s eyesight is a top priority. Let us help relieve some of that stress with our comprehensive child eye exams. Contact us today to learn more.