Pediatric eye examinations are essential to diagnosing and treating vision and muscular conditions that can lead to vision loss. Vision is closely linked to normal childhood development and learning. In many cases, children with treatable visual conditions will not complain about problems because they do not know what normal vision looks like. Poor visual acuity can lead to slower learning development throughout your child’s school-age years.
WHEN SHOULD CHILDREN RECEIVE EYE EXAMINATIONS?
The American Optometric Association (AOA) and the American Academy of Opthalmology (AAO) both recommend a child receive their first eye examination at 6 months. Follow up examinations should be performed at 3 years, immediately prior to entering school, and then annually or bianually (or more often as recommended) thereafter depending on the child’s perceived risk of visual development problems.
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WHAT IS THE EYE DOCTOR CHECKING FOR?
Depending on the child’s age and ability, children should be evaluated for a number of visual conditions and disorders including but not limited to:
Nearsightedness: Also known as myopia, nearsightedness is caused by images focusing in front of the retina.
Farsightedness: Also known as hyperopia, farsightedness is when the focal point of light occurs behind the retina.
Astigmatism: An imperfection in the curvature of the eye causing blurred vision.
Amblyopia: AKA “lazy eye”. Amblyopia one of the most common visual conditions affecting children, and early detection is critical in proper treatment to resume normal development.
Strabismus: AKA “eye turn” or “crossed eye”. Strabismus is a muscular condition which prevents the eyes from working together properly, and oftentimes develops in infancy. In many cases, strabismus can accompany amblyopia. Treatment options include corrective lenses or a patch over the eye to force proper alignment. Alternative treatment options include eye-muscle surgery.
Eye Diseases: Many eye diseases and ocular manifestations of systemic diseases can only be properly detected and diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination. Some diseases, such as glaucoma, show little or no symptoms in early stages.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A VISION SCREENING AND COMPREHENSIVE EYE EXAMINATION?
Vision screenings performed by school nurses and pediatricians can be an important indicator of eye health issues, but are not mean to replace a comprehensive eye exam. Most screenings provide a general assessment of visual acuity, but do not evaluate the health of the eye or provide treatment plans for visual acuity disorders (e.g. nearsightedness) or diseases.