When Should My Child Have An Eye Exam?
Your child’s visual acuity will sharpen at six months of age, which is when the AOA recommends that infants should have their first comprehensive eye exam. Your child’s next eye exam should be at 3 years of age and again before entering school, typically between 5 to 6 years old.
If there are no vision problems, the AOA recommends school-aged children get a comprehensive eye exam every two years. For children requiring corrective lenses, consult with your eye doctor to see if annual exams will suffice or if more frequent visits are required.
Eye testing for infants
Babies should be able to see as well as adults in terms of focusing ability, color vision and depth perception by 6 months of age.
While it may seem early, your baby is ready for his or her first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months old. Your doctor will check the structure of your baby’s eyes to ensure they are developing correctly, test that their eyes are working well together, and screen for eye diseases.
The doctor will focus on testing for the following:
- Nearsightedness (myopia)
- Farsightedness (hyperopia)
- Distorted Vision (astigmatism)
- Eye movement ability
- Overall eye health
Although serious problems are not common at this age, early detection and treatment are key and can provide the best opportunity to improve any problems.
The Eye Exam: Preschool Children
Some parents are surprised to learn that preschool-age children do not need to know their letters in order to undergo certain eye tests, even when they are too young or too shy to verbalize. A doctor can conduct a vision screening on a 3-year old child using eye chart tests, letters, pictures, or a tumbling E chart.
- Lazy eye (amblyopia) – Most common cause of vision problems in children, lazy eye is also fully correctable when diagnosed early.
- Crossed eye (strabismus) – Involves one or both eyes turning either inward or outwards; can also cause amblyopia.
- Focusing (accommodation) – Ability of the eye to automatically change its focus from seeing at one distance to another.
- Color vision – Assessed with a color blind test for kids
- Depth perception – Ability to gauge distances between objects
The doctor may use spray or drops to dilate your child’s pupils in order to get a better look inside the eye at the retina, optic nerve, and blood vessels. The eye drops may sting and cause blurriness, but only for a short time.
Your child’s next exam, unless advised otherwise by your doctor, should be prior to entering school, usually between 5 to 6 years old. A doctor will be able to compare the results of this exam with the earlier exam to analyze how your child’s vision is developing.
If using a tumbling E chart, your child will be asked to use one of their hands and extend their fingers to mirror which direction the “fingers” of the E are pointing on the chart: up, down, left, or right.
A pediatric eye exam will last approximately one hour. In this exam, the doctor will be checking to ensure your child’s vision is developing appropriately and will check for any focusing and refractive issues, such as astigmatism, nearsightedness, and farsightedness, as well as test the following:
What to Ask at The Eye Exam
Although serious problems are not common, if your child is diagnosed with any vision issues, it’s important you’re on the same page with your doctor. Here is the list of potential questions to ask to ensure you’re in the know:
- What is the name of my child’s vision problem?
- What caused the eye problem? Is it an inherited condition?
- What is the recommended treatment?
- Do you have any suggestions for resources to get more information?
- When should we make another appointment?
- Are there things I should watch out for between appointments? If I see any of them, should I bring my child in or just call the office?
- Is my child at risk of developing any eye conditions such as myopia?
- How can I best monitor my child’s eye health?
- Is there anything else you think we need to know?