Children Eye Exam? Taking Care Of Tiny Tots Early
Have you taken your child in for their first eye exam? Just as taking care of your children's teeth is important for proper growth and children's well-being, so too is taking care of your tiny tot's vision. Children eye exams are not anything to be worried about.
When To Take Your Child In For An Eye Exam
Children may start experiencing vision problems as early as preschool. In fact, some studies suggest up to 10% of preschoolers may have visual disturbances. The problem with this is most young children may have difficulty communicating any vision problems. For most, "not" seeing normal may seem normal, only because children do not know what to expect when it comes to their eyesight.
Most children will have an eye exam in school around kindergarten or first grade. The American Optometric Association however, suggests parents should take their children in for their first official eye exam by six months old. While that seems young, the earlier you start caring for your child's vision, the better.
School Vision Exams Vs. A Visit To The Optometrist
Even though your child may pass the vision screening test at school or even at the pediatrician's office, keep in mind these vision exams are basic. You should plan to visit a formal optometrist or other specialist for a comprehensive eye exam at least once every two years. A full eye exam will test your child's near and distance vision, eye movement, eye teaming, focusing ability, check for eye turns, lazy eye and peripheral awareness.
What To Do If You Suspect A Problem
Your toddler may be able to tell you they "see" things funny when they are young. Some methods to detect vision problems in young children may include poor eye/hand coordination. You may notice your toddler straining or closing one eye to see when reading or coloring.
If you suspect any vision problems, you should schedule an appointment with your optometrist.
Typically, a child's eye exam is similar to an adult's, and will include:
- Medical history.
- Visual testing of near and distance vision.
- Eye Alignment and ocular motor skills.
- Corneal measurement.
- Checking overall health of the anterior structures in the eye as well as the posterior structures behind the eye.
If your doctor discovers a problem they will educate you about your child's eye health and may recommend corrective lenses.
Signs Of Eye Problems In Children
It is important as a parent you recognize some early warning signs of vision problems in children. Young children often cannot verbalize what is going on with their eyesight. Here are some warning signs your child may have a vision problem:
Any or all of these signs may help alert you to possible vision problems early on. You can then work with your healthcare provider to help your child find a suitable pair of lenses.
- Frequent straining to see things
- Poor eye/hand coordination
- Frequent eye rubbing
- Lazy eye
- Problems in school
- Difficulty keeping eye contact
- Frequent squinting or tilting of head to see
- Frequent headaches
- Losing place while reading
- Use of finger or other tool to read
Types Of Eye Tests For Children
There are many different eye tests an eye doctor will perform depending on your age. Typically pupil responses (the way the pupil opens and closes) fixate and follow (how well your baby's eyes follow an object) and preferential vision are tested in young infants and toddlers.
Preschooler's eye testing is a little more involved. Testing may include:
- LEA Testing - This includes testing young children using eye or visual charts that use LEA symbols. These are more often used for young children because not all children can distinguish letters. Common LEA symbols used for vision tests include pictures of apples, squares, circles and other familiar shapes.
- Random Dot Stereopsis - This tests children's vision using dot patterns. Your eye care professional can measure how well each eye sees or how hard one eye works in comparison to another.
- Retinoscopy - Remember when you were young and your doctor shined a bright light in your eye? This test does virtually the same, allowing a doctor to measure how much reflection of light occurs in the retina. Your doctor may be able to decide whether your child needs eyeglasses using this test.
Common Eye Problems In Children
Two more common problems detected in young children include: (1) lazy eye and (2) strabismus or lazy eye.
When a child has lazy eye (also called amblyopia) an eye doctor will detect weaker vision in one eye versus the other. Fortunately a doctor can often easily correct this problem by having a child use an eye patch on the stronger eye, so the weaker eye has time to "catch up" or strengthen.
Strabismus or misalignment of the eyes typically results in crossed eyes. Many problems often cause strabismus. These may include poor muscle control. When young children have this problem, their eyes won't focus on the same object at the same rate. One eye may focus normally while the other may focus on another point.
Young babies often look cross-eyed until their eye muscles strengthen and they learn to focus properly. As they grow however, if this problem does not resolve itself it may be a sign your baby has strabismus. Treatment may include patching the stronger eye or wearing prescription lenses. Some affected may need surgery in extreme cases. If not treated, strabismus may lead to double or blurry vision in young children.
Remember, your child's eyesight is important for their health and well-being. Be sure you start vision exams early to help protect and preserve your child's health. If you do encounter a vision problem, don't fret. Most doctors can easily address vision problems in young children with corrective lenses or minor adjustments. If your child requires eyeglasses, fortunately these days there are many fashionable and fun eyeglasses your child can select from. The key is early detection so that if your child has amblyopia, it can be treated early and the weaker eye has a chance to improve. Before the age of 6, your child's brain can be easily influenced to receive a clear image from the weaker seeing eye. After the age of 6, it becomes more difficult to improve the vision in the weaker seeing eye.
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