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Eye Health Center

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Eye Exams in Your Baby's First Year

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

What Happens in a First-Year Eye Exam?

Before your baby's eye exam, make a list of any questions you have. In case you'll need to wait to see the doctor, bring a favorite toy or something else your baby can play with quietly and maybe a snack as well.

Every well-baby visit should include:

  • A family history of eye health or vision problems.
  • A penlight exam of eyelids and eyeballs: Are the pupils the same size? Are the lids firm, not drooping? Is there any sign of infection, disease, tearing problems, or allergy? Do the eyes, lids, and lashes appear normal?
  • Eye movement check (each eye and both together): How well does your baby follow an object (often a toy) as the doctor moves it about? Both eyes should respond the same. If not, there may be a problem.
  • Light reaction test: This test takes place in a darkened room so your baby's pupils widen, giving the doctor a better view inside the eye. Using an ophthalmoscope or retinoscope, the doctor looks for a red reflex in the eyes -- one at a time and then together. An abnormal response could signal problems like cataracts or tumors.

Although most doctors know how to do a baby's and child's eye exams, your baby's doctor may want to refer your baby for additional screening, with or without the finding of eye or vision problems. Experts have different opinions on vision screening and exams for children. Talk to your doctor to see what’s right for you.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on April 01, 2014
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