With how important these exams are, when should your child have their first? Continue reading to learn more about children’s eye exams, including why they’re important, what to expect, and when your child should have their first one.
What Is an Eye Exam?
No matter your age, eye exams are vital for your ocular health and vision. These examinations help your optometrist assess your vision and look for signs of eye disease.
Eye exams are especially important for children. Their eyes are constantly developing as they grow, and many complications can arise during this time. Various eye conditions can develop between ages 2 to 5, and your eye doctor can identify them during a comprehensive eye exam.
The Importance of Children’s Eye Exams
Your child reads, writes, plays, and interacts with other people every day during school and other activities. Nearly 80% of children’s learning is visual, and your child will learn many different visual skills as they grow.
Without regular eye exams, your child may have an eye condition without knowing. An undiagnosed problem, like a refractive error, may seem insignificant, but it can affect a child’s school performance, social connections, and confidence.
Eye Exams Help Protect Your Child’s Vision
Vision problems can be more common in children than you think. Approximately 20% of preschool-age children have a vision-related issue. Many eye conditions can be present from birth or develop in childhood.
Certain eye diseases can worsen with time, putting your child at risk of damaged vision. An example of this is myopia—a refractive error that can increase your risk of eye disease in adulthood.
Your child may not notice they have a vision problem if they have issues from a young age. As a parent, there are several signs you can look out for to know if you need to visit your eye doctor.
Some of these symptoms include:
- Constant eye rubbing
- Trouble participating & focusing in sports, school, & projects
- Sitting close to digital screens & other presentations
- Difficulty seeing far distances
Eye exams can help protect your child’s eye health, and they should have several examinations as they grow. With many tests needed to get a picture of their ocular health, what happens during your child’s eye exam?
What Happens During Your Child’s Eye Exam?
What happens during a children’s eye exam depends on how far they are in their development. Your optometrist will decide the most appropriate tests for your child’s examination. Overall, you can expect the following during a children’s eye exam:
An eye exam typically begins with a discussion about your child’s eye health. Your eye doctor will ensure your child’s medical and family history is up-to-date to determine if there are any health issues to be aware of.
You can ask any questions you may have during this time.
Visual acuity is how well your child can naturally see. Your optometrist will use a Snellen eye chart to test your child’s visual acuity if they can understand letters.
Another important part of the eye exam is a refraction test. This test features a phoropter and helps determine how light bends as it enters your eye. Your optometrist can identify any refractive errors during this portion of the exam, such as:
Eye Health Examination
Your doctor can identify signs of eye diseases during this part of your child’s exam. Many eye diseases can develop without noticeable symptoms, potentially leading to severe vision loss.
Your optometrist can look at structures of the eye and surrounding tissue to identify any present problems. They can use available technology like optical coherence tomography to get a detailed look at your eye.
Findings & Recommendations
The last parts of your child’s examination include your eye doctor’s overall findings and recommendations. They’ll explain how they can help maintain your child’s eye health and vision. If your child needs glasses, they’ll work with the optical team to find the right pair of frames for their needs.
Now that you know what happens during a children’s eye exam, when should your child have their first?
When Should Your Child Have Their First Eye Exam?
Your child’s first eye exam should happen sometime within their first year of living. A comprehensive examination of your child’s eyes should happen when they’re 6 to 12 months old.
At 12 months or younger, your optometrist will check the following during their exam:
- Signs of a refractive error
- Signs of amblyopia
- How their eyes move
- If their eyes are aligned correctly
- How their eyes react to changes in light & darkness
Your child will need more eye exams as they grow. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, your child’s next examination should happen when they’re 12 to 36 months old. The overall eye examination frequency should go as follows:
- 6–12 months
- 12–36 months
- 3–5 years
- Annually after age 5
Take Care of Your Child’s Ocular Health
Regular eye exams are crucial for protecting your child’s vision as they grow. While there is an examination frequency guideline, listen to your optometrist’s recommendation and don’t ignore signs of any issues.