Having good vision is crucial to a child's physical development, success in school and well-being.
The visual system is still developing in babies and children, and equal input from each eye is vital for the brain's vision centers to develop properly. If a child's brain is not receiving clear images from the eyes, vision might be affected in a way that cannot be corrected later in life. Early detection can usually allow effective treatment.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the following exams:
For newborns: All infants' eyes should be checked to detect any signs of infection, defects, cataracts or glaucoma. An ophthalmologist, or "eye M.D.", should perform a comprehensive exam if the baby is premature or at high risk for other medical problems, has signs of abnormalities or has a family history of serious vision disorders in childhood.
By 6 months of age: A second screening for eye health should be conducted by a pediatrician, family doctor or other trained health professional at a well-child exam to check for proper eye health, vision development and alignment of the eyes.
At 3 to 4 years: Vision and eye alignment should be assessed by a pediatrician, family doctor, optometrist or someone trained in vision assessment of preschool children. Visual acuity, or visual clarity, should be tested as soon as the child is old enough to cooperate with an eye exam using an eye chart. Eyes should be tested separately to ensure that both eyes see well.
If misaligned eyes (strabismus), "lazy eye" (amblyopia), refractive errors (myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism) or another focusing problem is suspected in the initial screening, the child should have a comprehensive exam by an ophthalmologist.
It's important to begin treatment as soon as possible to ensure successful vision correction and life-long benefits.
Five years and older: Vision and eye alignment should be assessed by a pediatrician, family doctor or optometrist. If any vision-threatening problems are detected, the patient should be evaluated by an ophthalmologist trained in pediatric care.