From birth, your child should receive regular eye screenings from a medical professional to identify any eye problems that may lead to visual impairment.
“These screenings typically are recommended at birth, infancy, preschool and school-age milestones,” said Dr. Andy Ruder, an optometrist at Marshfield Clinic.
Infant and toddler screenings
Infants at high risk for ocular problems, such as those with a family history of retinoblastoma, childhood cataracts and glaucoma, or metabolic and genetic diseases, should have a comprehensive examination by an eye care specialist as soon as possible.
Premature infants are especially at risk for retinopathy of prematurity, or ROP, and need to be evaluated by an eye care specialist to prevent severe vision loss, Ruder said.
Childhood vision screening looks for disorders including amblyopia, or poor vision in an otherwise normal eye; strabismus, or misalignment of the eyes; significant refractive error, or the need for glasses; and other eye abnormalities. Your child’s pediatrician or eye doctor can screen for these disorders. As children get older they may also have vision screenings at preschool, elementary school or health fairs.
Children of any age who have signs or symptoms, cannot be successfully screened or are at high risk for developing ocular abnormalities related to family history or systemic disease require a comprehensive examination by an eye doctor, Ruder said.
Early screenings can identify problems
Amblyopia can be caused by the need for glasses, misalignment of the eyes or deprivation-anything that blocks a clear image from reaching the retina – such as ptosis, which is a droopy eyelid, or cataract, which is a clouding of the lens. It’s reversible with treatment and the earlier it is detected and treated, the more likely your child will develop normal vision. Left untreated, it can result in permanent sight reduction or loss.
Amblyopia is estimated to occur in 1-3 percent of children ages 6 months to 6 years. “It can be treated with glasses, eye patching or eye drops, to cover or blur the “good” eye for a period of time and strengthen the affected eye,” Dr. Ruder said.
By the time children can talk, they can help in successful vision screening. Before then, eye doctors use aids, such as toys or videos, to hold children’s attention while they look into their eyes.
At school age, the major vision abnormalities are nearsightedness and astigmatism, Ruder said. Your school-age children should be screened during primary health care visits or by an eye doctor if they are at risk for developing eye or vision problems. If the pediatrician suspects a problem, your child will be referred to an eye doctor for a complete exam to rule out any underlying ocular disease and the need for vision correction, therapy or possibly myopic management.
If you have questions about your child’s vision, talk to your child’s doctor.
Learn more about the benefits of dilated eye exams
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