General Children's Health
Among the children's health issues that parents are most concerned with, eyes and vision rank near the top. Good vision is essential for proper physical development and educational progress in growing children.
The visual system in the young child is not fully mature. Equal input from both eyes is required for proper development of the visual centers in the brain. If a growing child’s eye does not provide a clear focused image to the developing brain, then permanent irreversible loss of vision may result.
The American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, The American Academy of Ophthalmology, The American Academy of Pediatrics, and The American Academy of Family Physicians recommend early vision screenings. Early detection provides the best opportunity for effective, inexpensive treatment.
Vision Screenings and Examinations by Age
A child's comprehensive eye examination should attempt to determine whether both the eyes have normal anatomical structures and function normally.
Understanding Normal Vision
With normal vision, both eyes aim at the same spot. The brain then fuses the two pictures into a single three-dimensional image. This three-dimensional image gives us depth perception.
A child’s comprehensive eye exam seeks to prove that both eyes have equal and normal vision. Having good vision facilitates a child’s educational and social success.
When the eye doctor finds that one eye sees better than the other, he or she seeks to determine whether glasses alone will solve the problem or whether patching or surgery are necessary. The same diagnostic process is employed whenever the eyes are found to be misaligned. It is important to understand that even children who appear to see well and have completely straight eyes may have significant visual problems. These problems cannot be corrected if it goes untreated for too long. The American Academy of Ophthalmology and The American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus recommend a comprehensive eye examination be performed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist whenever questions arise about the eye health of a child at any age.
A pediatrician, family physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant should examine a newborn's eyes for general eye health in the nursery. An ophthalmologist should be asked to examine all high risk infants, i.e., those at risk to develop retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), those with a family history of retinoblastoma, glaucoma or cataracts in childhood, retinal dystrophy/degeneration or systemic diseases associated with eye problems or when any opacity of the ocular media or nystagmus (purposeless rhythmic movement of the eyes) is seen. Infants with neuro-developmental delay should also be examined by an ophthalmologist.
Infants (6 months – 1 year)
All infants by six months to one year of age should be screened for ocular health by a properly trained health care provider such as an ophthalmologist, pediatrician, family physician, nurse or physician assistant during routine well-baby follow-up visits.
Toddlers (3 years – 5 years)
Vision screening should also be performed between 3 and 3 1/2 years of age. Vision and alignment should be assessed by a pediatrician, family practitioner, ophthalmologist, optometrist or individual trained in vision assessment of preschool children. Emphasis should be placed on checking visual acuity as soon as a child is cooperative enough to complete the examination. Generally, this occurs between ages 2 1/2 to 3 1/2. It is essential that a formal testing of visual acuity be performed by the age of 5 years.
For more information on Pediatric Eye Care, click here.