Wondering when you should schedule your child’s first eye exam? Absent of any signs of vision problems, children should have at least one eye examination before age five. If any issues are present, schedule an exam right away to determine if medical eye care is needed. If you or members of your family have a history of eye disease or wore glasses at a young age, your child is at risk for developing vision problems. Pediatric eye exams can help those young eyes stay healthy!
Vision develops over the first 10 years of life and takes much longer than the other senses. Infants aren’t born being able to see color. They aren’t even born with coordinating eyes. That eye coordination has to develop over the first 3 months. Newborns can only see 8-12 inches from their face. That focusing ability will grow as an infant ages, so that they can see farther and farther each month.
As for the color vision, this is something that develops as the retinas of the eyes develop. Light passes through the pupil (black circle) and lens (like a camera) of the eye and hits the inside tissue. Light should hit the retina tissue in the back of the eye, which is covered in millions of light-sensitive nerve cells. Those cells will interpret colors, but the nerves must develop outside of the womb for that to happen.
Over the first 8 months of life your infant should develop:
You can help your infant’s vision to develop by stimulating them through their environment. Infants can see differences in shades before they see colors. Hanging pictures with highly-contrasting shades (like black and white) above their crib can stimulate eyesight. Moving crib mobiles, toys with different patterns, textures and colors can all help as well. Reading, singing, talking to or playing music for your child can help stimulate their brain and their vision development faster.
Your infant should have normal vision around 8 months of age. However, that vision will continue to sharpen and improve over the next 10 years. Those 10 years are prime time to catch vision problems that may be present. Those problems usually are nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism, which happen when vision focuses incorrectly in the eye. Nearsightedness—or seeing objects clearly only when near—happens if light focuses before the retina tissue instead of on it. Farsightedness—seeing far objects clearly but near ones blurry—happens when light focuses beyond the retina tissue. Astigmatism is when light focuses at two different points. All of these can happen due to the curvature of the lens, which bends light differently when focusing.
Refractive errors of the eye are hard to detect in infants, but are much easier with children. With infants, you have to look for signs of vision problems such as excessive tearing, continual sensitivity to light, constant eye turning instead of focusing, or frequent eye infections. Look for these cues that something is amiss with your child’s vision:
Children are at a greater risk for vision development problems if they were born premature. However, many premature infants have fully-developed vision.
If you notice any of the signs listed above, it is definitely time to schedule an eye exam for your child. If you don’t notice these signs, the American Optometric Association recommends the following guidelines for eye exams:
About 35% of children have nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism before they start school, so don’t skip on eye exams. At the first eye exam, we take a case history of your child to know if they are at risk for eye problems. We do vision testing to check eye coordination and delayed motor development. This is nothing for children to be scared of, however, and it is fairly quick. We will dilate the eyes just like we would with older patients. This involves the use of eye drops to cause dilation for us to see into the eye better.
Let your child know what to expect by explaining:
Choosing a time when you know your infant or child will be awake, happy and alert is the best time to schedule an eye exam. These exams can be very quick and go very smoothly if children know what to expect. With the cool machines we use, we can detect vision problems and can then fit them for glasses (or contacts if older) to correct vision. To schedule your child’s first eye exam, call Peeper’s Optical today at (303) 333-2800!