Vision problems affect one in 20 preschoolers and one in four school-age children. And since many vision problems begin at an early age, it’s very important that children receive proper eye care. Poor eyesight can also affect learning ability, athletic performance, and self-esteem. Untreated eye conditions can worsen and lead to more serious problems. For all of these reasons, the best way to protect your child’s vision is by having regular eye examinations.
Your pediatrician has probably tested your child’s eyesight to determine your child's ability to focus, recognize colors, and perceive depth or dimension. If your pediatrician sees anything out of the ordinary, you’ll be advised to make an appointment with a licensed eye doctor who will perform a thorough evaluation of your child’s eyes.
Regardless, children should have a comprehensive eye exam by a licensed eye doctor at six months, 3 years of age, before first grade and every two years thereafter or as recommended. The doctor will determine if your child needs vision correction and check for common eye disorders.
Prepare for Your Child's Eye Appointment
Prepare for the eye appointment with our checklist(17 KB, PDF) designed to gather needed information. Be sure to tell the eye doctor about any changes in eye health issues in your family, as many of these can be inherited.
Your eye doctor will conduct some of the same tests as your pediatrician, but with some important additions:
- Vision correction The eye doctor will use a few eye drops to help your child’s pupils dilate, creating a better window to the back of your child’s eyes. This dilation allows your doctor to check for Nearsightedness (myopia), Farsightedness (hyperopia) and Astigmatism. The drops take about 45 minutes to work, and will blur your child’s vision and cause a little light sensitivity for a few hours. Using a retinoscope, the doctor will move the light to see it reflected in the pupil. The shape of the reflection helps the doctor see if your child has any vision issues that require correction.
- The interior and back of the eye After dilating your child's eyes and dimming the lights, the doctor will use a special instrument called an ophthalmoscope to see through to the retina and optic nerve at the back of the eye. This is where clues to many eye diseases first show up.
- Tests for a specific issue Be sure to discuss any other concerns you have about your child’s eyes such as Crossed Eyes or nystagmus, so your doctor can do the appropriate tests and advise you on the action required.