Your Child's Eye Exam
Experts have different opinions on vision screening and exams for children. Talk to your doctor to see what’s right for you.
How Do I Prepare My Child for an Eye Exam?
Make time to sit down and explain what will happen during your child's eye exam. Make sure your child knows that he or she will be asked to look at and identify objects for the eye doctor. These could be pictures, letters, or shapes of light on the wall. Explain also that the eye doctor may put drops in his or her eyes but it will not hurt. Eye drops may sting a bit but only for a moment. Be honest with your child and work with your doctor to reassure your child.
What Tests Will Be Done on My Child's Eyes?
In the first year of life your doctor will check for nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, amblyopia, eye movement ability, proper eye alignment, how the eye reacts to changes in light and darkness, and any general eye problems. If the pediatrician or family doctor suspects an eye problem, the child will usually be referred to a pediatric eye doctor. Early diagnosis of childhood eye disease is crucial to effective treatment.
For children between the ages of 3 and 5, the eye doctor will conduct a physical exam of the eyes and also do vision screenings using eye chart tests, pictures, letters, or the "tumbling E game", which tests the child's visual acuity, or ability to see form and detail of objects. The "tumbling E game", also called the Random E's Visual Acuity Test is useful in determining the eyesight of children who cannot yet read. The child is asked to identify the direction that the letter "E" opens to by holding out three or four fingers to mimic the letter "E." You can practice this test at home before your appointment.
If your child is a bit older, he or she may be asked to identify pictures such as a plane, a house, a duck, or a hand. Correcting poor visual acuity is very important in a child's sight development.
Amblyopia, or "lazy eye," is a condition in which there is unequal vision between the two eyes despite using corrective measures such as glasses. It can be caused by unequal errors of refraction, misalignment of the eyes, or cloudiness in the line of vision due to conditions such as cataracts. Amblyopia is reversible when detected early. Treatment involves patching the better-seeing eye or blurring its vision using atropine drops. Amblyopia is a leading cause of unilateral vision loss in children and young adults.