When it comes to keeping children healthy and ensuring proper childhood development, annual visits to paediatricians are important. But what most parents don’t realise is that regular eye exams are equally as important. Healthy vision is essential to a child’s ability to learn and achieve their academic potential, as well as to play sports and other activities.
When is the First Eye Exam Needed?
Surprised to know that a six-month old should have an eye exam? That’s right. Because early exams are not just about vision.
During infancy, a child’s vision is constantly changing. In the earliest months of their lives, babies can only focus on close-up objects, and they see only high contrast colors, such as black, white, and red. At six months of age, however, visual acuity sharpens. It is at this point that babies should have their vision examined by a paediatrician to ensure that their eyes are developing normally, perform as a team, and are working together. If not, one or both eyes may be affected and that could lead to a lifetime of poor vision.
Other exams should be in the 3 to 4-year-old range because the eyes have basically done their growing and developing by then. And a pre-kindergarten exam is a must (don’t assume school-offered vision screenings are enough). After that, eye exams should become a regular ritual, just like annual check-ups at the paediatrician’s office. It’s the best way for the optometrist to keep tabs on young eyes that can change fast.
What Can Be Detected in an Eye Exam?
Early treatment can stop bigger problems down the road and detect vision issues that could impair eyesight for life. Children’s eye exams can identify near-sightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism, conditions that can be easily remedied with prescription glasses. An optometrist can spot a condition commonly known as “lazy eye” (the medical term is amblyopia) very early in a child’s life. Treatment includes a corrective eye patch on the normal eye so it forces the weaker eye to work harder and improve. The younger the child, the better to avoid a school eye patch.
Like any trip to a doctor, kids might be scared to see an optometrist. But many optometrists, especially behavioural optometrists, are skilled at working with children. They can actually make eye exams fun for kids. In addition there are so many great kids brands with fashion forward designs that will make wearing glasses much more enjoyable. You can even get Hello Kitty, Converse, Lacoste and Nike glasses for kids in a large range of colours and shapes through our Kids Optical Rx program aptly named “Kool Kids Frames”.
Don’t just assume all is well unless you see your child squinting or complaining about his or her eyes. Make yearly trips to the optometrist as important for your family as annual visits to paediatricians. Please make sure you book an eye test for your children in the lead up to school start to ensure that nothing stands in the way of their learning in 2016.