Did you just read this and think, ‘What do you mean – how frequently should my kid have an eye test?! S/he has never had any problems with seeing. No problems, no eye test… right?’ Umm… not really. No eye check, no known eye problem is how we’d like to put it.
Why is regular vision screening required in children?
Up to 80% of a child’s learning is through their vision. For learning optimally, kids need visual skills like eye movement, focusing, eye teaming and visual clarity at all distances. Vision problems could interfere with your child’s play, learning and academic performance.
The vision system of babies and young kids is not fully developed. The development of your kid’s vision centers in their brains need input to come in equally from both their eyes. If one eye is sending in blurry images, your kid’s vision may never develop completely. If left untreated, this damage may even be permanent.
Kids cannot understand or verbalize that they are having trouble seeing clearly. But an eye check by a Pediatric Ophthalmologists is designed to pick eye problems even in babies. (Here’s more information on how doctors check babies’ eyes). Conditions like lazy eye, crossed eyes, etc. have better response if they are corrected well in time.
With kids spending more time on screens than on the playground, shortsightedness is increasing more and more in kids especially Asians. Early detection therefore plays an important role in preventing the progress of your child’s spectacle numbers.
How frequently should your child have his eyes tested?
Dr. Prachi Agashe, Pediatric Ophthalmologist recommends that you should have your kids’ eyes screened at the below intervals:
- After birth: The new born baby’s eyes should firstly be examined and a basic red reflex test done by the family doctor or pediatrician within the first month of life. If the baby was born premature or was at high risk for other medical reasons, an eye specialist should perform a detailed examination.
- 6 months & 1 year: A family doctor or pediatrician or eye doctor would perform a second screening at six months of age and a third screening at one year of age.
- 3 years: Your pediatrician will screen your child’s eyes for crossed eyes, lazy eye, and whether they can focus at near, middle and far distances. Any suspicion of eye problems will warrant a visit to a child eye specialist for a detailed eye examination.
- 5 years: Get your child screened next when they enter primary school (first standard). Nearsightedness is the most common refractive eye problem in this age group. When other problems are suspected, your family physician or pediatrician will refer you to a child eye specialist for a comprehensive eye check by putting in eye drops to dilate your kid’s eyes.
- Every two years later: After that, get your kids’ eyes examined every two years after 5 years of age. Get this done even if they do not complain of any vision problems.
Your child may require more detailed or frequent eye checks if:
- Your child has spectacles or other eye conditions. (The child may need an eye check every year).
- Your baby was born premature or had a low birth weight or needed oxygen for a prolonged period or there was distress to your baby during delivery.
- Your child has medical conditions like Down’s syndrome, juvenile arthritis, etc.
- Someone in your family had eye conditions like retinoblastoma (an eye cancer), squint, lazy eye, congenital cataract or congenital glaucoma or needed glasses since a young age.
- Your kid has a learning disability or developmental delay or some other neuro-psychological condition.
- Your child needs to consume medications which could have side effects on his/her vision.
One certainly cannot expect that your child will be able to know and bring to your notice that his / her vision could be better. Your kid will just assume that this is how it is. By the time they do learn to recognize and complain, it may already have caused significant visual damage at school. So, it’s best to proactively check if your child has a vision problem, rather than wait for the eye problem to progress enough to cause noticeable symptoms.
Dr Prachi Agashe is a child eye specialist in Mumbai with special fellowship training in pediatric ophthalmology. She has a vast experience in identifying and treating vision problems in kids like refractive errors, eye infections, nystagmus, squint etc. You can consult her at Agashe Paediatric SuperSpeciality Care, or reach her at 022 42435000 and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org