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Your Child’s First Eye Exam



As opticians serving University Place, Tacoma, and Lakewood, we know parents are eager to make sure their children are as happy and healthy as possible. But when it comes to your child’s health, vision might not be your priority.

However, the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends your child get their first eye exam by an ophthalmologist at six months.

We know that this can seem complex and a little overwhelming, so let’s answer a few commonly asked questions.

How often should my child have a comprehensive eye exam?

The AOA recommends the following:

  1. A comprehensive baseline eye exam between the ages of 6 months and 12 months

  2. At least one comprehensive eye exam between the ages of 3 and 5 to check for any conditions that could have long-term effects

  3. An annual, comprehensive eye exam starting before first grade

My child will have vision screening at school. Isn’t’ that enough?

Unfortunately, it’s not. While it can provide helpful insight, AOA has found that “these vision screenings miss up to 75% of children with vision problems and give less than 4% of the information provided by a comprehensive eye exam." Undetected vision problems can affect your child’s ability to learn, so it’s better to follow the guidelines, rather than wait.

How can eye doctors know what a baby can or can’t see?

Despite their inability to talk, your child’s ophthalmologist or optometrist has a wide range of tools and technology to help them assess your child’s vision, no matter their age. They use light to test a baby’s pupil responses. The way the pupil reacts to light can help indicate nervous system issues. Light is also used to see how well your child can track an object.

To determine visual acuity, doctors use striped cards to administer a preferential-looking test. These cards provide children with an accessible way to show the provider what they can or can’t see. Learn more about this test here.

How long are the exams?

Eye exams are usually longer than a typical visit to your child’s pediatrician and can take up to two and a half hours. This is because most children will have their eyes dilated, which can take up to 45 minutes to be fully effective.

What happens at a typical exam?

To determine a child's visual function (which includes visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, color, depth, and motion your child’s ophthalmologist or optometrist will observe your child’s eyes using lights or toys.

Lights are used to determine if your child's eyes are straight or turned, and if necessary, the doctor will use an ophthalmoscope, an instrument that shines a bright light into the eye, to look at the eye’s inner structures.

The alignment of the eyes is also checked by covering one eye and then the other. If the eyes move back and forth during this procedure, they are not aligned properly. To determine the significance, prisms are used to measure the amount of misalignment.

What are Common Eye Problems in Children?

Many common pediatric eye problems like amblyopia (lazy eye) or strabismus (eyes that are misaligned) can be corrected early with patching, eye drops, or corrective lenses. Common refractive problems like myopia (nearsightedness) can be easily corrected with eyeglasses.

Your child’s vision is a crucial part of their overall health, and we look forward to helping serve you and your whole family. If it’s time to schedule an eye exam for your child, please give us a call today.

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