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What’s a Pediatric Eye Exam?

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Photo of female kid during pediatric eye exam

Vision screening for children is essential in preventing vision problems. It’s also a great way to catch concerns that may be related to other issues in the body. Young children will usually have a vision screening by a pediatrician, and then be referred to an ophthalmologist for further screening if needed. The CDC states that approximately 18% of children under the age of 18 are diagnosed with vision abnormalities. Keeping a regularly scheduled eye exam for kids can help prevent these abnormalities from becoming worse, or from happening in the first place.

Pediatric screening can be performed as early as infanthood to 5 years of age, and is usually done by the family physician. The pediatrician will know the anatomy of the eye and its surroundings in order to detect an issue. 

  • Newborns are born with a blurred vision that develops over the course of the year. The doctor will perform a “red reflex” test. The doctor shines a bright light in the eye expecting to see a red light reflected back. If there is no red reflection, they will schedule more testing. In addition to the “red reflex” test, the doctor will also test the newborn’s blinking and pupil response.
  • At 6 to 12 months of age, a second screening should be done. This eye exam for kids includes your child’s well visit. The pediatrician will perform the same newborn screening, as well as check for healthy eye movement and alignment, and will visually inspect both eyes.
  • At age 12 to 36 months, your child will be tested for healthy eye development. This may include a “photo screening” test, which uses a special camera to take pictures of your child’s eyes. These pictures help find problems such as amblyopia, which is often referred to as a “lazy eye”.
  • From 3 to 5 years of age, the vision and alignment should be checked. A pediatrician, family doctor or optometrist can perform this test. When the child is old enough to read the eye chart, their visual acuity is tested. Although most children will not require glasses or vision correction, many children are considerably farsighted but can still see clearly, even at a distance. The doctor will look for amblyopia, astigmatism or any refractive errors, misaligned eyes, or any focusing problem. Should the screening come back abnormal, the ophthalmologist can treat the problem as soon as possible.
  • At age 5, the pediatrician or optometrist will screen your child for visual acuity and alignment. The most common problem in this age group is nearsightedness, and this can be corrected with eyeglasses. The optometrist will examine the child’s eye for other visual abnormalities as well.

A routine eye exam for kids is essential to the growth of healthy eyes for years to come. Undetected vision problems are a common issue for children in school. Whether they’re affected behaviorally or academically, children can experience headaches, eye strain, and fatigue due to reduced visual skills. A school nurse can help with minor diagnosis, but an optometrist will have more insight into what’s visually wrong. 

Most of the time, children aren’t shy when expressing their feelings. So, you can tell pretty quickly if your child is experiencing visual abnormalities. Perhaps they rub their eyes excessively, or complain of headaches or eye pain. Squinting can be an indication of a refractive error, because it provides temporary improvement in focus or clarity of an object. You may notice your child covering one eye or tilting their head to get a better view of an object. Of course, if the child is having difficulty concentrating in school, this may be a sign of vision issues.

Children and adults alike can benefit from a routine eye exam with their local optometrist. Schedule your first appointment at Elevation Vision for our comprehensive eye exam today!

Written by Dr. Emily Lemburg

More Articles By Dr. Emily Lemburg

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