A child’s vision plays an integral part in their overall development and well-being. Problems with vision during a child’s formative years can prevent images from being transmitted from the eyes to the brain; this lack of visual input to the brain early in life can cause permanent vision problems that can’t be corrected later on. Therefore, it’s critical for children to get vision exams shortly after birth and subsequently during infancy, preschool and school years. Exams are recommended at the following stages:
Not long after birth, a pediatrician or family physician should check a newborn’s eyes. Usually, the exam involves performing a red reflex test, which is a basic test to indicate that the eyes are normal and healthy. This test is usually performed in the hospital nursery, before a newborn is even discharged. In the case of a premature or otherwise high-risk newborn, a more comprehensive exam is usually performed by an ophthamologist.
At some point between six months and one year of age, infants should have their vision screened again at a pediatric well-child visit. Like the newborn exam, this screening would be a general assessment of eye health.
By the time a child is about 3 ½ years of age, they should undergo an eye exam that assesses both vision and eye alignment. If the preschooler is mature enough to cooperate with a typical eye chart test, then visual acuity can be tested in that manner. Another approach that doesn’t require as much cooperation from the child is photoscreening. Both methods assess whether a child can see clearly at near and far distances. If a problem is revealed, glasses can be prescribed for vision correction.
A preschooler’s screening can also indicate a problem with eye alignment, such as astigmatism or “lazy eye”. If such a problem is suspected, a more thorough exam can be performed by an ophthalmologist to determine the best course of treatment.
When children reach the age that they enter full-time school, their eyes should once again be screened for both alignment and visual acuity. This exam could be performed by an ophthalmologist, but can also be done by a pediatrician, family doctor or even school nurse. At this age, nearsightedness is a common problem; however, it can be corrected easily with a prescription for glasses. Alignment problems can also be discovered in school-age children, and require a more comprehensive exam by an ophthalmologist.
Kids who balk at the prospect of wearing glasses may ask their parents for contact lenses. While young children lack the maturity needed to care for contacts responsibly, older kids and teenagers may find contact lenses to be an appealing option. Once you’ve established that your child is emotionally ready to handle a contact lens regimen, be sure to purchase the contacts from a reputable source. A site like NextdayLenses not only offers all the most popular brands of contacts, but also provides their customers with next day delivery service. If you have teenagers who forget to tell you they ran out of contacts until the last minute, such speedy service can be a real asset!
Simon Walters studies eye care. He often blogs about the basic concerns of caring for one’s eyes throughout life.