Children encounter plenty of challenges as they grow and develop, including potential challenges to their eyes and vision. While eye exams for kids don't quite follow the same timetable as those for adults, they can still prove instrumental in catching any problems that need to be dealt with as early as possible. If you're trying to help your children enjoy the clearest possible eyesight through these formative years, here are the pediatric eye exams you want to add to your schedule.
Infant Eye Exams
Infants receive a brief, basic examination of their eyes at birth — but there's actually little point in checking their vision until they're about 6 months old. That's because the vision center of the brain has to learn how to coordinate eye movement, process the signals coming in from the eyes, and then interpret those signals as visual images. By the time your baby is 6 months old, however, they need that first eye exam. The optometrist will examine the front surfaces of the eyes for problems such as juvenile cataracts, look inside the eye to check for tumors or other abnormalities, and run some basic tests to see if your baby can focus on objects and follow them with their eyes.
Toddler Eye Exams
Your child should have their next eye exam when they are 3 years old. Toddlers have the great advantage of being able to tell the optometrist what they are seeing and what it looks to them. The optometrist will re-check the health of your child's eyes while performing more details eye function evaluations than before. Special instruments can also determine whether your child's eyes are refracting light normally; abnormal refraction could mean possible nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism. These issues can be confirmed by having your child identify shapes on an eye chart.
"First Day of School" Eye Exams
The third major pediatric eye exam needs to happen when your child is about to attend school for the first time. In addition to the same kinds of tests that were performed in the previous exams, your optometrist will give special priority to visual acuity testing. Your child will read from the standard Snellen eye chart to help the optometrist evaluate any refractive errors that might call for eyeglasses. Refractive errors that aren't corrected at this stage can lead to serious eye strain and problems with schoolwork.
Ongoing Eye Exams
Once children have entered their school years, they may follow the same eye exam schedule recommended for most adults. Healthy eyes with no evident vision problems need to be examined every two years, while eyes with known issues need to be checked every year. The optometrist may need to adjust your child's corrective vision prescription. Nearsighted children may even benefit from a technique called orthokeratology. The special contact lenses used in orthokeratology can reduce the amount of nearsightedness your child develops, allowing for better vision later in life.
Children and adults alike need regular eye exams to help them keep and seen clearly for many years to come. If you need to make those appointments for anyone in your family, contact a local optometry clinic for eye exams.