Eye exams are vital to children’s well being. Pediatricians examine a baby’s eyes within the first few weeks of life. If possible congenital problems are detected they will refer your baby to Dell Children’s Eye Center. Although a baby cannot give verbal feedback, the doctor has equipment that provides an “objective” evaluation of the eyes. One instrument, for instance, shines a light into the eye, to check for possible nearsightedness or farsightedness. Eye drops are used to dilate the pupil. The drops usually take effect after 30 to 45 minutes. This causes the entire eye exam to take about one and one-half hours.
Around 3 years of age, children should have a dilated eye exam. Their eyes will be tested using pictures (teddy bear, truck, phone, house, etc.). We might try using the tumbling “E” game since very few children are ready to be tested with letters at this age. At this stage, the pediatric ophthalmologist measures a child’s visual clarity at all distances, checks depth perception, examines the health of the eyes, and looks for nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and eye muscle problems.
Another eye abnormality that a pediatric ophthalmologist can detect is Amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” a condition in which sight does not develop normally in one eye. It is possible that neither the child nor the parents may be aware of the condition. If left untreated, amblyopia may not be treatable in later years. The amblyopic eye may develop a permanent visual defect and depth perception may be lost.
It is important for children to have an eye exam before starting school. Vision screenings conducted through schools are not complete eye examinations. A comprehensive children’s eye exam should check the health of the eyes, visual acuity, proper eye alignment and eye muscle function. It should include a refractive test to determine whether a child needs correction. A recent study showed that only 14 percent of children entering school in the United States had ever had an eye exam. Early detection and treatment of vision problems or eye disease is very important to the health of a child, so it’s best to schedule that appointment before the school bus comes!