Our eyes help us take in the world around us and play an important role in kids' development. Getting regular eye exams can keep their eyes healthy and find vision problems. Many problems and eye diseases can be treated, especially when they are found early.
Routine Eye Exams
Kids get their first eye exam in the hospital as newborns. Then, a doctor or nurse will check their eyes at each checkup.
Depending on your child’s age and family health history, each eye exam may be slightly different. Eye exams can include:
- vision screening, to check the overall health of the eyes
- visual acuity test, to find out how sharp or clear objects appear
- eye alignment, to see how well the eyes work together
If the pediatrician or family doctor finds a problem that needs to be checked by an eye doctor, they will recommend that your child see an ophthalmologist or an optometrist.
Glasses and Contact Lenses
Many kids and teens are nearsighted, farsighted, or have astigmatism. These problems are usually corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. Kids and teens who wear glasses or contacts should have yearly checkups with an eye doctor to watch for any vision changes.
If your child needs glasses, keep these tips in mind:
- Let kids pick their own frames.
- Plastic frames are best for children younger than 2.
- An elastic strap can help keep glasses in place for active toddlers.
- Metal frames should have spring hinges and are OK for older kids.
- Polycarbonate lenses are best for all kids because they are tough, impact-resistant, and light.
Contact lenses may be a good choice for some older kids and teens, such as those who play sports or feel uncomfortable wearing glasses. To wear contacts safely, they should know:
- when to wear them and not wear them
- how to put them in and take them out properly
- how to clean them as instructed by the doctor
When Should I Call the Doctor?
Many vision problems that are found early can be treated. Call your pediatrician or family doctor if you notice that your child’s eyes:
- are often red
- look different than usual
- make tears more than usual
- don’t line up or move together
- look crossed (after 6 months of age)
- have pupils (centers) that are different sizes, or if the pupils or iris are an unusual color, or have changed color
Also call if your child:
- complains of eye discomfort
- rubs their eyes a lot
- seems very sensitive to light
- has trouble focusing on or following an object
In school-age children, signs of a problem can include:
- not being able to see objects at a distance
- trouble reading the blackboard
- trouble with reading
- sitting too close to the TV