From birth to 10 years of age, the area of a child’s brain responsible for vision is still developing. That’s why it’s important to have your child’s eyes checked regularly, as many eye disorders and vision problems can be treated successfully if diagnosed early.
When should I start taking my baby for regular vision tests?
Newborn babies have their eyes examined for the very first time right after birth. Your child’s pediatrician will then include a screening examination of your child’s eyes and vision during every well-child visit.
Once your child is old enough to cooperate (usually at 3 years of age and older) they will be tested by being asked to provide feedback from looking at an eye chart. If your child’s regular doctor detects any vision or eye problems, your child will get a referral to an appropriate eye doctor – an ophthalmologist or optometrist.
Parents often worry that their child is too young to fully cooperate with an eye exam or can’t read letters, but most pediatric eye doctors get creative with a variety of kid-friendly techniques using toys, games and videos to make sure they can conduct a thorough exam.
What is “lazy eye” and can it be treated?
Lazy eye, also known as amblyopia, is so common that it accounts for more vision loss in children than all other causes put together. It happens when one eye sends blurry images to the brain, then over time the brain learns to only see fuzzy images with that eye.
There are several different causes for lazy eye, including misalignment of the eyes (strabismus), which means that both eyes don’t look at the same point in space simultaneously. Near- or far-sightedness (astigmatism) in one eye only can also cause lazy eye, as can a physical blockage that prevents light from entering the eye, such as a cataract or a droopy eyelid.
The good news is that by seeing a pediatric ophthalmologist for early invention, a child’s lazy eye can be treated. First, your child will start wearing glasses to correct the focusing ability of her eye. An eye patch or eye drops can also be used to block vision from the eye the brain has been relying on for vision. Without signals from the eye the brain has favored, the brain is forced to use the other eye and relearn clear vision.
I've noticed that my 4-year-old goes a little cross-eyed sometimes. Should I be concerned?
A misalignment of the eyes includes crossed or floating eyes and causes visual signals to the brain to shut off, resulting in poor vision development. Treatment may involve glasses, eye patches, eye exercises and eye muscle surgery to adjust alignment. Glasses and eye patches are often very effective in treating a misalignment of the eyes – surgery is rarely needed. If you notice something different about your child’s eyes or vision, talk to your regular doctor.
Someone in my daughter's kindergarten class always seems to have pink eye. How can she avoid getting it?
Pink eye (conjunctivitis) is an infection caused by a virus or bacteria. It’s usually not serious but can be uncomfortable and unsightly. As the name indicates, the whites of the eyes will look pink or red, and you may notice yellow or green discharge coming from the eyes. Regular and thorough hand washing is the best way to avoid this condition. Occasionally, antibiotic eye drops are required.
If the white part of the eye looks pink or red for more than a week or two, or if your child has sensitivity to light, talk to your doctor – this could indicate a more serious problem.
My son has a learning disability. I've heard that certain types of vision training might help him do better at school – is that true?
There is no scientific evidence that supports the claim that vision training or colored lenses in glasses improve academic performance when a child has a learning disability. Instead, your son will benefit much more from an individualized learning evaluation, tutoring and teaching techniques tailored to his specific needs.
Make sure your son sees his doctor regularly to detect any possible vision problems. If necessary, he will get a referral to a specialist. If he needs them, glasses can help him see better and learn at school.
I have rambunctious twin boys. What's the best way to keep their eyes and vision safe?
It’s definitely a good idea to take some simple precautions to prevent any possible eye injuries. Make sure any sharp household items, gardening or other tools and household cleaners are stored away securely. If your boys do ever get any chemical substances in their eyes, flush their eyes and faces with any available source of water for at least 10 to 15 minutes, then head to the nearest urgent care location.
Almost half of all eye injuries happen during sports and recreational activities. If your twins play sports where the ball is moving quickly – such as soccer, tennis, basketball, baseball or lacrosse – make sure they always wear any required face shields and consider getting them protective sports goggles with polycarbonate lenses that won’t shatter.