Routine Eye Care for Kids

Vision problems in children are uncommon but when they do occur, they often go undetected. Young children may not realize or be able to communicate that their vision is impaired, and even older children may not notice if the vision in only one eye is affected. Every parent wants their child to have perfect vision, so how often should children have eye examinations to make sure their eyes are healthy?

Every newborn undergoes a brief eye examination shortly after birth, mainly to ensure that no birth defects of the eye are present. This is usually performed by a pediatrician, family physician, nurse practitioner, or a physician’s assistant. A similar examination should take place between six and twelve months of age, usually during a well-child check-up with a pediatrician or family physician. A primary goal of this second examination is to ensure that light can enter the eye unobstructed, so that vision will develop normally. This is evaluated by shining a light into the eye and observing a red or orange glow, called a red reflecx, in the pupil of the eye – similar to the red eye often seen in photographs taken using a flash. Any problems that prevent light from entering the eye – such as extreme far-sightedness, crossed eyes (strabismus), or even a cataract – can prevent normal vision development. This results in a condition called amblyopia, or lazy eye. Many conditions, if left undetected, can cause amblyopia, which can be treated if it is identified during the critical vision development period that lasts until children are about 8 years old.

Once a child reaches age 2 ½ to 3 ½, and certainly by the age of 5, a vision screening should take place to make sure that vision is developing normally. Children in this age group are preparing to enter pre-school or kindergarten, and this examination is a good check for school readiness. This examination can be done during a well-child visit to the pediatrician or family physician, but should include some measurement of the child’s vision. Most children this age cannot read the letters on the eye chart, but special vision-testing charts – including some with easy-to-recognize pictures – are available for children this age. Because vision is vulnerable to amblyopiain this age group, a formal examination by an eye care specialist should take place if the pediatrician is unable to perform testing, or if the test results are in any way abnormal. Some children in this age group have high degrees of near-sightedness or far-sightedness, and need glasses to help their vision develop normally.

If they are passing all screening exams and no problems are noted by parents, we still recommend that all children have a baseline eye examination by an ophthalmologist once before age 5 years. Thereafter, most children will undergo one or more vision screenings in elementary school, providing additional opportunities to identify vision problems.

If a child fails any screening exam or problems are noted, by parents, physicians, or school personnel, an immediate eye exam is recommended. Otherwise, normal children need routine eye exams every 3-5 years.

To learn more about Routine Eye Care for Kids contact Albany Eye Associates at 518-434-1042 to schedule an appointment with one of our Board Certified Doctors.