Many parents believe that a vision screening done at school or by a pediatric nurse during a primary care visit is a comprehensive eye exam, but that is not the case. These screenings are usually far too general, and can leave a handful of eye health concerns and vision problems undiagnosed. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology and American Academy of Pediatrics a child should have their first eye exam as a newborn by the pediatrician. If there are any abnormal findings, the child needs to be seen by an eye doctor. By age 5, all children should have a check in with an ophthalmologist to ensure good visual acuity. After that, an eye exam by an eye care provider should be done every year to insure optimal vision and good eye health. However, parents should always schedule an exam any time they notice something out of the ordinary.
What is a comprehensive eye exam?
Unlike a vision screening, which is a gross assessment of the eyes, a comprehensive eye exam dives deep into your child’s eye health and vision. During the exam, your eye doctor will determine how well your child can see. Even the youngest children, or those who cannot speak or respond well, can be assessed with diagnostic tools that are specialized for these situations. Doctors also conduct tests to make sure the eyes work as a team and that the eye muscles are properly functioning. The health of the eyes are also checked with dilation drops that allow the doctor to see the retina. Your child’s eyes can change at any time, so it’s important to have the examination done on a yearly basis to compare results and address any changes quickly.
Below you will find the top 5 reasons why your child needs an eye exam:
1. Your child needs vision correction.
You may think your child has “perfect” vision because they don’t complain. However, children do not have a reference for determining what normal is. For example, a child with astigmatism can see the words, but the words can be double or fuzzy. Without a proper eye exam, your child could go for years without their best vision. This can disrupt their education, as 85% of learning is visual. At a yearly eye exam, your doctor can determine if glasses are necessary to improve their vision.
2. Your child has a “lazy eye” or eye turn.
The eyes work as a team, but sometimes one or both of the eyes will not function as well and can cause your child to have a “lazy eye”, or better known as strabismus. Even the smallest amount of strabismus can affect how the eyes work, but if caught early, effective treatments are available. Symptoms of undiagnosed eye turns can include blurriness, double vision, headaches and more.
3. Your child was diagnosed with a learning disability
Believe it or not, many learning disabilities have been misdiagnosed because of undetected eye problems. The first step to take after you are told your child is struggling in school is to schedule a comprehensive eye exam. There are many times when simple reading glasses, special prism lenses, or vision therapy have helped kids with their learning difficulties.
4. Your child has a sight-threatening eye health problem.
We don’t usually think that young children can present with eye diseases that can decrease vision, but there are a few your eye doctor will want to check for. With a dilated eye exam your eye doctor can check your child for retinal diseases, juvenile glaucoma and eye cancers. Even if nothing is present, it is good to have baseline data for the future. The sooner these eye diseases are caught, the higher the chances are of saving vision.
5. Your child is on a digital device.
It’s inevitable, our kids are going to be on a digital device, and probably for the majority of their lives. All digital devices emit a high frequency blue light that can harm the eyes. Just as dermatologists recommend protection from blue light for skin tissue, many eye care providers recommend protecting the delicate eye tissue as well. This can be done with trusted blue-blocking glasses recommended by your eye doctor. In addition, according to the CDC, blue light glasses can also help with sleep problems. Studies have been shown that suggest too much screen time can lead to poor sleep because the blue light disrupts our circadian rhythm. Increasing nearsightedness, or myopia, is another problem that can result from too much screen time, says the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Your eye doctor can check your child’s vision and give recommendations to help slow down the progression of nearsightedness in your child.
This health tip was written by Dr. Arian Fartash, an award winning optometrist who has travelled the world lecturing about eye health and prevention of disease. She is also the founder of Glambaby a company dedicated to keeping your child's eyes healthy through protective sunglasses and eye products.
You can get 15% off all Glambaby products with the code: BLUEBERRY15.