Children should see an eye doctor for their first eye exam during the first 6 months of their life and then every year after that. If your child is not complaining and seems to have 20/20 vision, should you bring them in? Absolutely! In our clinic, during our routine examinations even when a child is not complaining and seems to have 20/20, we often do see underlying conditions.
An example of this would be when a child is farsighted. Farsightedness is a condition where the child can definitely see but they’re having to put a tremendous amount of effort into focusing to make things clear. So, this can lead to long-term strain and difficulty in school in general.
Another condition we see quite often, even when a child may not be complaining, is unequal amounts of prescription between the two eyes. What we see is that either one eye is a little bit of prescription and one has a lot, or there’s just no prescription on one eye and one eye has a prescription. The child can see but they’re really using just the one eye to see, and that’s the dominant eye. The problem lies in the other eye where the weaker eye, the clear signal is not getting to the brain, so those areas of the brain just don’t develop, and when they don’t develop we end up having what’s called an amblyopic eye or amblyopia.
Amblyopia is vision loss and we can do something about this. First for most, if we can catch it early enough and treat the unequal prescription by giving the child glasses, we can avoid amblyopia from occurring. By 5 to 7 years of age, however, if amblyopia has already started, the brain is still soft, so, we are able to kind of mold it and by giving them glasses we can actually reverse the effects of amblyopia. Bringing your child to see us early on gives us a chance to correct amblyopia.
When children come in, we also look for eye muscle problems. The way in which the muscles and the brain kind of connect and have some difficulties at a young age. The child can end up strabismus or wandering eye. Seeing the child early on helps us diagnose and treat that.
Again, when you bring them in for an exam, we’ll check their focusing system, we’ll check their depth of perception, their color vision and also the health of the eyes.
Something that is rare, but happens, is when children are quite young there can be a life-threatening eye condition called Retinoblastoma, a form of cancer, that can sometimes be present. Although unfortunate, if we can catch it early enough not only we can help the child, we can save their life. So again, bringing them in is very very important.
Children will often not complain about their vision because they just do not know what normal is. Bring them in early and often so we can take a look at them, make sure that there is nothing wrong. If there is a problem we can treat it. Leaving these problems untreated can really affect the way in which the children learn and affect their entire life.