If you’re a parent, you may be wondering how often you need to have your child’s eyes checked. So much of kids’ learning happens visually, so their visual system must be working smoothly. But, unfortunately, children don’t usually know what their vision is supposed to be like and may not realize they are experiencing symptoms.
Poor vision can lead to many problems beyond your kids’ eye health and can affect how they learn and develop. Common eye conditions such as glaucoma and dry eye may be manageable if caught early. That’s why it’s essential to understand how often to take your child in for an eye exam, especially as they enter school. Unfortunately, vision problems aren’t always as obvious as other medical problems, and symptoms can be hard to spot unless your child is communicating them to you.
Why are children’s eye exams important? How do you know how often your child should see their eye doctor? What vision symptoms should you look out for? These are all common questions for parents when it comes to their children’s eye health.
WHY ARE EYE EXAMS IMPORTANT FOR CHILDREN?
Your child’s eye health is extremely important. Children interact with their environment and learn visually. This means that if your child suffers from vision issues it can affect their physical, cognitive and social development as well as their overall well-being.
Vision problems in children are quite common. In fact, research shows that up to 10 percent of preschoolers and up to 25 percent of school-age children have vision disorders.
The only way to know for sure if your child has the visual skills and abilities they need is to ensure your child receives routine comprehensive eye exams.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR CHILD HAS VISION ISSUES?
Unfortunately, children rarely complain about vision problems because they have no reason to believe that their eyesight is different from others around them.
Luckily, there are some symptoms that you can keep an eye out for that may point to a vision issue. If you notice any of the following symptoms, schedule an eye exam for your child:
- Red, itchy or watery eyes
- Eye discharge
- Squinting or rubbing the eyes
- Covering or closing one eye to see
- Tilting the head to see
- Sensitivity to or avoidance of light
- Blinking more than usual
- Lack of concentration, especially at school
- Holding objects close to their face to see
- Complaining of a headache or eye pain
- Avoiding activities needing distance vision
- Trouble focusing or making eye contact
- Misaligned eyes
- Difficulty following objects or people with their eyes
- Avoiding activities such as reading, playing sports or watching TV
WHAT DOES A DOCTOR LOOK FOR IN AN EYE EXAM?
When your child receives an eye exam, their eye doctor will check the overall health, vision and condition of their eyes. They will also check for common eye conditions such as:
Amblyopia is more commonly referred to as “lazy eye” and occurs when one eye is stronger than the other. If amblyopia is left untreated, it can lead to vision loss. In fact, it is the leading cause of vision loss in children, affecting 3 out of 100 children.
Myopia is also known as nearsightedness and is one of the most common eye conditions that affect children. Myopia affects how your child sees objects and means that they will be able to see objects that are nearby clearly, while further objects appear blurry.
Strabismus, or “cross-eye” is an eye misalignment issue where the eyes fail to point in the same direction. It is usually caused by weak eye muscles and can severely affect your child’s vision.
WHEN SHOULD YOU BRING YOUR CHILD IN FOR AN EYE EXAM?
How often your child should receive an eye exam is dependent on a few factors. These factors include:
- Family history
- Medical history
If your child is not deemed a high risk for eye conditions or diseases, we recommend seeing your eye doctor based on the following age-related guidelines:
- 0-6 months of age: Your child should have their first comprehensive eye exam
- 3 years of age: You should have their second eye exam unless otherwise recommended by your child’s eye doctor
- 5-6 years of age: Your child should receive their third eye exam just before they enter the first grade
- 6-18 years of age- Once your child has reached school-age, they should have an eye exam every two years
You may be wondering how often your child needs to receive an eye examination. The following guideline outlines the recommended frequency of eye examinations your child should get:
Your child’s first eye examination should be before they are 3 years of age. Of course, if your child is suffering from any of the symptoms previously mentioned, you should get them in to see their eye doctor at any age.
Starting at age 5 or 6, your child should begin to see their eye doctor regularly. If your child has good vision and doesn’t suffer from any eye conditions, they should see their eye doctor every 2 years.
If your child needs to wear glasses or contact lenses or suffers from an eye condition, they should see their eye doctor annually or as recommended.
THE 3 STEPS TO ENSURE YOUR CHILD’S BEST VISION HEALTH
- Watching for the common signs and symptoms of vision problems in your child.
- Making sure your child gets their eyes examined regularly according to the guidelines previously mentioned.
- Ensure you and your child follow the recommendations mentioned by your child’s eye doctor.
The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) covers annual eye exams for children up to 19.
Your Local Optometrist
Your child’s eyes constantly change through these formative years, so it’s vital to have an eye care team to help you and your child through any issues that might be discovered. Our Tonic Eye Care team is here in your community, ready to talk you through any concerns about your child’s visual health.
Please feel free to reach out to us to schedule your child’s eye exam.