Parents frequently ask me at what age should their child have an eye examination.
Many parents assume that a school vision screening or one performed in the pediatrician’s office is sufficient. Vision screening programs are intended to help identify children who may have undetected vision problems and refer them for further evaluation. However, they can’t be relied on to provide the same results as a comprehensive eye and vision examination.
A comprehensive eye and vision examination conducted by an optometrist will include
- Patient and family health history
- Visual acuity measurement
- Preliminary tests of visual function and eye health including depth perception, color vision, peripheral vision and response of the pupils to light
- Assessment of refractive status to determine the presence of nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism
- Evaluation of eye focusing, eye teaming and eye movement abilities
- Eye health examination
- Additional tests as needed
Vision screening programs can’t substitute for regular professional vision care. Periodic eye and vision examinations are needed to fully evaluate eye health and vision.
Even if a child passes a vision screening, parents shouldn’t assume that they don’t have an eye health or vision problem. Professional examinations are the only effective way to confirm or rule out the presence of any eye disease or vision problem.
I know with my own children I thought they were seeing well however it wasn’t until I brought my 3 year old daughter in for an examination that I determined that she had a significant need for glasses and had developed amblyopia, which left untreated can result in lifelong vision reduction.
Children should been seen for their first eye examination at 3-4 years of age. Parents should not worry about a child’s ability to respond and “read” the eye chart. Most of our measurements are objective and we can determine if a child has a problem without any responses from them. I remember that when my daughter was younger people would always ask how she was able to have an eye exam so young. I would respond that every child should have a comprehensive eye exam by age 4.