Children need regular vision screenings to ensure they can see properly and don’t have any underlying conditions that need treatment.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons, recommends first getting a screening by the child’s pediatrician or family doctor for visual acuity and alignment. If the child doesn’t pass the screening, he or she will be referred to an ophthalmologist.
By three to four years old, kids’ vision can be checked by having them read pictures or words on an eye chart. That test will determine how well a child can see from near, middle, and far distances. Many kids this age are a little farsighted but see well at other distances. Still, most preschoolers don’t need glasses.
School-aged kids can be screened by their pediatrician, school nurse, or any other health provider, where they’ll read eye charts. At this age, kids may be nearsighted, which can be corrected with eyeglasses.
During childhood, children are growing and changing a lot. Their vision can change, too, so parents need to make sure kids get regular screenings.
At any age, if a child complains of eye problems or strains to see, get him or her checked out. Vision problems can cause a child to feel tired, and have trouble concentrating and learning at school. Parents should look for signs that their child could have problems seeing, such as avoiding reading or close activities, turning to the side to see better, losing their place when reading, or having a short attention span.
If any eye health or vision issues are suspected at any of these screenings — such as misaligned eyes, a “lazy” eye, or trouble seeing near or far — the child should see an ophthalmologist for a comprehensive exam, including having their eyes dilated.
AAO recommends kids with medical conditions (including Down syndrome or prematurity, or if they have a family history of eye problems) see an ophthalmologist since they might be at higher risk for developing pediatric eye problems.
Proper exams and treatment now can help kids’ eyes and vision in the long term.
Kristen Castillo, EyePromise, [email protected]