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Eye Exams in Your Baby's First Year

An eye exam -- in your baby's first year? Absolutely.

Children should have age-appropriate assessments for eye problems in the newborn period, and at all subsequent doctor visits. Premature babies, or those with a family history of congenital cataracts, eye tumors, and genetic disease, should be seen by an eye specialist in the nursery.

All babies should be examined by age 6 months to be sure each eye focuses, the eyes are straight, and there is no internal eye disease. This can be done by your baby's regular pediatrician. Treating eye conditions early can spare your child lifelong vision impairment and boost his or her  health.

Why Schedule a First-Year Eye Exam?

The eye exam your baby had at birth is an excellent start -- but only a start. As baby's eyes and vision develop, the first year is a crucial stage for detecting and treating eye conditions and vision problems.

The ability to see grows right along with your baby. First comes noticing things that move. Then, in the first week of life, full-term babies can see facial expressions (such as their parents' delighted smile). It takes longer for color vision and depth perception to develop and for eye muscles to start working together.

As a parent, you are the person who knows your child best. If you see or suspect that the eyes are turning in or out, or if your child's eyes appear white in photographs, report this immediately to your doctor.

If your child's birth was premature, check that an eye exam is done before your baby comes home. If you're home now and not sure, ask. If no eye exam took place, make an appointment with an eye care doctor as soon as possible.

When Your Baby Needs an Eye Exam Right Away

As baby grows during this first year, be on the lookout for these indicators of possible eye or vision problems:

  • Strabismus: Eyes are not aligned correctly and don't move together.
  • Nystagmus: Jumping, "dancing," wiggling, or wavy eye movements that continue after your baby is 3 months old.
  • Any eye injury or physical change that concerns you.
  • An indication that your baby's sight is not developing properly.

If you notice any of these signs, call your baby's doctor for an eye exam.

Who Does Baby Eye Exams?

Your baby's doctor (pediatrician or family physician) should include a basic eye exam and screening for vision problems during each of your first-year well-baby visits. The baby's doctor will typically treat minor eye health problems, such as an infection.

If you or your baby's doctor has further concerns about baby's vision, a referral to an eye specialist is the next step.

Looking for a children's eye doctor? It's generally as simple as:

  • Asking your baby's doctor for a referral
  • Asking family members or friends to give you the names and numbers of their babies' eye doctors
  • Contacting your health plan to find eye doctors in your area

WebMD Medical Reference

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