The American Optometric Association, or the AOA, recommends that babies get their first eye exam between the ages of 6-12 months of age. This isn’t just to see if your child needs glasses, it also serves as a wellness visit to evaluate how healthy the development is of your child’s eyes. The human eye is a very complex organ – many abnormalities and genetic diseases that affects the eyes and vision can be detected at a very young age. As with most things, early detection of sight threatening diseases gives the best chance for positive treatment.
HOW DOES A BABY’S EXAM WORK?
A qualified optometrist with experience in pediatric exams can do a complete and thorough examination of your child’s eyes without an eye chart. Children less than one year of age obviously can’t recite letters from an eye chart to let the doctor know “which is better or worse”. There are special instruments and expertise that allow the doctor to detect the presence of near/far-sightedness as well as any astigmatism. The doctors will also check the structure of the optic nerve and vascular system inside the eye. There are techniques the doctors also use to check that the muscles used to move the eyes are developing properly. Certain scans and measurements can give key indicators for ocular diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, and more.
We generally see that an eye exam for a baby is usually MUCH better received than your baby’s first haircut or trip to the dentist. There is nothing painful or intrusive that occurs during an infant’s eye exam. Often the doctor may put an eye drop in your child’s eyes to safely dilate their pupils so that they can use special scopes to look inside. This dilation is only temporary, painless, and perfectly safe.
It is very important to know as much as possible about your child’s medical history when they get their first eye exam. Your optometrist is going to want to know as much as possible about any family history of vision problems or eye diseases. Even small details about their gestation period, birthweight, and pregnancy complications are all very important for your doctor to know.
What about children older than 6-12 months of age?
In addition to having your baby’s first exam between 6-12 months of age, it is also recommended that they have at least follow-up eye exams at ages 3 and 5. These ages are crucial for ensuring that your child has healthy eyes and quality vision. It is imperative to make sure that your child has healthy sight when they are developing hand-eye coordination as well as learning to read and write. Your eye doctor will be able to help make sure that your child’s eyes are prepared for a healthy future.
How can I get my baby an eye exam for free?
True Eye Experts are part of a program called Infantsee. InfantSEE®, a public health program, managed by Optometry Cares® – the AOA Foundation, is designed to ensure that eye and vision care becomes an essential part of infant wellness care to improve a child’s quality of life. Under this program, participating optometrists provide a comprehensive infant eye assessment between 6 and 12 months of age as a no-cost public service. Click here to learn more and locate a doctor in your area who can provide the free infant assessment.