15 Sep Parenting tip: The importance of regular professional eye exams
Ever since they were born, we’ve been regularly bringing our kids to various types of check-ups to ensure their overall well-being. One oft taken for granted type of health check is vision screening.
Vision screening is a “limited eye test” that helps identify who are at risk for vision problems. It is normally performed by the school nurse, a pediatrician or other qualified health care providers.
Why is it important?
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), vision screening is vital to ensure the proper visual development of children because as we all know, good vision is crucial to overall wellbeing, development and pursuit of success in life. Vision screening serves as an early warning system that detects the problem early on and provides an opportunity for parents to address the issue immediately and effectively.
The American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus recommend the following exams:
- Newborn: A red reflex test, which is a basic indicator that the eyes are normal, should be performed by the eye doctor.
- Infant: A second eye screening should ideally be done between six months and the first birthday.
- Preschooler: At this age, your child’s vision and eye alignment must be assessed by a professional. Visual acuity should be tested as soon as your child can go through an eye exam using an eye chart. The goal is to see if your child can focus normally at far, middle and near distances.
- School age: Myopia, or more commonly known as nearsightedness, is one of the most common refractive errors in this age group. A key element to managing this is early detection and proper intervention. Find out more about Vision Improvement Therapy (VIT) here.
In case you’re wondering: What’s the difference between a vision screening and an eye exam?
Vision screening is the first step, the assessment stage, which will determine whether your child will need a comprehensive eye exam. The eye exam will “facilitate diagnosis of visual problems.” It will also involve the use of eye drops to dilate the pupil to allow the eye specialist to better assess the condition of the eyes and the visual system.
AAO recommends an eye exam under these circumstances:
- Failed vision screening or one that has inconclusive results;
- Upon the recommendation of the pediatrician or school nurse;
- Following a complaint by the child or upon observation of “abnormal visual behavior” (like squinting, blurred vision, frequent headaches, rubbing eyes all the time, and reading at a distance closer than normal, among other symptoms); or
- When the child has a learning disability, developmental delay, neuropsychological condition or behavioral issues.
Parents, take note that only an optometrist or an ophthalmologist can perform a comprehensive eye exam so make sure that you do this the right way.
Have you taken your child for an eye screening? What was the experience like? Share your story and join other parents online!
Dr. Page’s own vision struggles helped propel him into the optometry field. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of South Dakota and a Doctor of Optometry from the New England College of Optometry in Boston, he launched his career in Phoenix.