From birth, your child should receive regular eye screenings from her pediatrician.
“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
At birth, some children have eye disease from infection, genetics or unknown causes. If undetected, disease could damage a child’s vision. Premature infants are especially at risk for retinopathy of prematurity, or ROP, and need to be evaluated by an ophthalmologist 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 your child gets older, she also might get vision screenings at preschool, elementary school or health fairs.
“Children of any age who are considered to be at risk for developing eye and vision problems should be seen by an eye doctor for a formal eye examination,” 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 child should be screened during primary health care visits or by an eye doctor if he is 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 glasses or contact lenses.
If you have questions about your child’s vision, talk to your child’s doctor.
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