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Children's Eye Exams

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Vision Problems in Kids Manifest in Different Ways, From Learning Challenges to Visible Frustration.

By the time a child is old enough to go to kindergarten, 1 in 4 will develop some type of visual impairment. These impairments, which can often be treated, can frustrate a child and present challenges in the classroom.

Less than 15% of all preschoolers have received an eye exam from an Optometrist. If an eye condition is developing, it will do so in most kids undetected until later in life. As doctors, this is particularly frustrating simply because a 30 minute eye exam is often all it takes to detect these developing diseases. In most cases, early detection and treatment will resolve the problem.

As with adults, developing eye conditions in kids tend to progress without an overt display of symptoms. In many cases, the child has lived with the eye condition since birth and may not know anything different. This means that that they may not realize that something is wrong.

Screening at school is insufficient

When a child undergoes vision screening in kindergarten and again in grade five, the testing is looking for obvious problems in the eye. They often do not detect developing conditions simply because they are not properly equipped to do so.

Signs your child may be struggling with vision impairment

If you notice your child displaying any of the signs below, we recommend they have an eye exam performed.

Infants

  • Constantly turning their head to one side
  • Consistently turning their head when interacting with objects, such as picking things up
  • Being startled or unaware of your approach from one side more than the other
  • Difficulty noticing items of interest
  • Their pupils do not look the same
  • There is a family history of amblyopia (lazy eye)

Pre-Schoolers

  • They sit quite close to the TV; they hold phones/tablets close to their face to see
  • They complain of headaches
  • Favoring one eye over the other when watching TV or reading (often presented as tilting their head to one side)
  • They find doing tasks close to them (such as putting together lego or tying their shoes) frustrating and difficult
  • Slower than expected achievement of milestones

School Age Children

  • Trouble focusing or paying attention during lessons
  • Complaints of headaches
  • They say things look blurry (at any distance)
  • They have trouble seeing the board
  • Reading comprehension is difficult
  • After second grade, they lose their place when reading or rely on using their fingers to keep track of where they are
The four main visual issues that impact kids

There are four conditions that typically impact children: myopia, strabismus, amblyopia, and other significant ocular diseases.

A variation of the above conditions affects approximately 25% of 10 year old children.

Eye exams for infants at 6 months old are free

We participate in a federally funded program (the Infant See program) that provides financial coverage for their first eye exam. We recommend that all infants receive an exam at six months old.

Next Steps

More Information About Eye Conditions That Affect Kids

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)

Amblyopia, the term used to describe a preventable reduction in vision acuity in one or both eyes, affects 2-8% of the overall population.It may be caused by strabismus, developmental ocular diseases such as cataracts, or a significant difference in the prescription between the two eyes. If left untreated, it may lead to a lifelong decrease in vision and can have both personal and professional repercussions.

If caught early, the condition may be corrected through glasses, patching, or vision therapy.

Myopia (Nearsightedness)

This refractive error of the eye presents as a difficulty in seeing things at distance, and it affects approximately 15% of children.

Failure to detect and appropriately treat this condition can delay perceptual skills, encourage the development of reading disabilities, and can lead to problems with depth perception.

Myopia is easily corrected by glasses or contact lenses.

Strabismus (Eye Turn)

This is an inability for the eyes to maintain alignment in the same direction simultaneously. Strabismus affects about 4% of children.

When one or both eyes turn in or out, (esotropia and exotropia respectively), symptoms such as headaches and blurred vision may occur. Hypertropia, also known as vertical misalignment, is much more difficult to pick up. It often manifests as blurred vision, headaches, and changes in reading speed and comprehension.

Children will often start using their fingers or another object to help guide them (or prevent them) from losing their place in line as they read.

The treatment for strabismus depends on the type and severity of the condition. It may include special prismatic glasses, surgery, or vision therapy.

Childhood Ocular Disease

Affecting approximately 0.5% of kids, childhood ocular disease can have devastating impacts. Childhood ocular diseases like retinopathy of prematurity, retinoblastoma (a 100% fatal cancer of the eye if not detected early in the disease), and toxoplasmosis (a fungal disease transferred from the mother to fetus through the placenta), can have effects much greater than just vision and ocular health.

The treatments are variable depending on the condition, but early detection is the key.

How Often Should Your Child Have Their Eyes Examined?
The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends the following eye exam schedule for kids:

  • First eye exam at six months of age
  • Second eye exam at three years old
  • Third exam at age five or six (just before they enter kindergarten)
  • Assuming healthy eyes, every two years thereafter

Has it been awhile since your child’s last eye exam?