By Dr. Marla Moon
If you are a parent or a grandparent of a young child, you may wonder if it’s time to set up their first eye examination. According to the American Optometric Association and the American Public Health Association, your child should have their first eye examination between 6 and 12 months of age and again at 3 and 5 years of age (unless a problem has been identified sooner). Eye exams for children are extremely important. Even if your child has undergone a vision “screening” by the school nurse or the pediatrician/family doctor, a comprehensive eye examination is important. One in four elementary school age children have an undetected vision problem and good eyesight is crucial for learning. In fact, 80%-90% of what a child learns during the first 12 years of life come through the visual system.
If your child is diagnosed with a problem at their eye exam, most likely it will be nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism or a combination. However, there are some other less common conditions that tend to show up in an infant/toddler or preschooler such as:
- Amblyopia (also known as “lazy eye”) in which normal vision can’t be achieved – typically in one or both eyes.
- Strabismus (also known as “crossed eyes” or an eye turn) in which the eyes do not maintain proper alignment.
- Convergence insufficiency in which the eyes do not work together during reading tasks or up-close work
The earlier that a vision problem can be detected, the better success we have to rehabilitate and treat that condition. Your child’s first trip to the eye doctor is an important step in maintaining your child’s health and ensuring his or hear ability to learn and develop.