An eye exam is an expert assessment of your eyes health and vision, performed by an Ophthalmologist (MD) or an Optometrist (OD). Exams are important at all stages of our lives, but especially for kids. Your child’s pediatrician will provide brief examinations, but without the advanced training and clinical tools, they’re unable to find the deficiencies or potential problems that an eye doctor will discover.
Eye exams are necessary to ensure there are no vision problems that can interfere with academic performance or your child’s safety. Having the exams early on is important because your child needs to develop the following skills:
- Visual acuity at all distances.
- Accurate eye teaming (ensureing it’s comfortable for both eyes to work together).
- Accurate eye movement skills.
- Ability to focus comfortably.
THE FIRST EYE EXAM
A child’s first comprehensive eye exam should happen around 6 months of age. The doctor will normally perform three tests on infants.
- PUPIL RESPONSES: evaluating if the pupil opens and closes properly with light.
- PREFERENTIAL LOOKING: using cards to attract the gaze of the child. This allows the doctor to assess vision capabilities without using eye charts.
- FIXATE AND FOLLOW: determining whether your infant can fixate on an object and follow it as it moves. (Babies are usually able to do this shortly after birth, certainly by their 3rd month).
CORRECTING PROBLEMS AT AN EARLY AGE
Some vision problems can result in permanent damage if they are not corrected early. Strabismus (crossed eyes), where the muscles point one or both eyes in the wrong direction is a great example. Amblyopia (lazy eye) is a condition where one eye is weaker than the other. The brain will ignore the weak eye and focus only with the strong eye. If amblyopia goes untreated, the child’s brain develops clear pictures from the good eye and blurry images from the lazy eye.
SIGNS YOUR CHILD MAY HAVE A VISION PROBLEM
There are several signs and symptoms you and your pediatrician should be on the lookout for. They include:
- Squinting or rubbing the eyes.
- Red, watery eyes or a discharge.
- A drooping upper eyelid.
- Excessive blinking.
- Tilting or holding their head in an unusual way.
- Trouble making eye contact.
- Bumping into things or difficulty picking up small objects.
- Headaches or sensitivity to light.
- Lack of concentration or focus.
BUY SOME SHADES
UV rays from the sun damage our eyes, even as kids. Sunglasses are recommended to protect your child’s eyes. Ensure they’re equipped with large lenses and have a wraparound design to fully cover the eyes. They should also be labeled with 100% UVA and UVB protection. Check to make sure they come off easily, many sunglasses for kids come with cords or strings, there is a risk of strangulation if they don’t come off quickly.
As we mentioned earlier, correcting problems at an early age is important. That means continuing their eye exams on a yearly basis. All kids 19 and under are covered by OHIP to have their eyes checked once a year. We encourage you to book your appointment today.