Do Children Need Vision Care?
Parents shouldn’t wait until their child begins school to check for vision problems. Most eye health professionals recommend a first-time exam around age 3 to 4.
Early screenings check for common vision problems. They also allow for quick treatment (if needed), increase overall eye health, and help prevent future issues.
Your child’s pediatrician can do a vision screening using a basic eye chart in most cases. If they detect any problems, you’ll be referred to a pediatric eye doctor.
Medicaid and CHIP offer free or low-cost health insurance for kids and teens. Children can get regular check-ups, immunizations, doctor and dentist visits, hospital care, mental health services, prescriptions and more. While open enrollment for marketplace coverage ended on January 15, 2022, in most states, Medicaid and CHIP are available for children year-round. Families of four earning up to nearly $50,000 (or even higher in some states) may qualify. Families (including child care providers) can visit InsureKidsNow.gov or call 1-877-KIDS-NOW (543-7669) to learn more about affordable health coverage for children.
Just like adults, children have specific needs when it comes to their vision. It is important for parents to understand when to take them to the doctor, eye issues they can experience, corrective lenses for children, and other topics that can aid them in ensuring their child has the best visual health possible.
It is important to take kids to the eye doctor regularly. Children should have their first eye exam between 6 and 12 months old, and they should have regular eye exams throughout their lives.
There are certain eye problems that can develop in childhood. It’s important to have these assessed and diagnosed to avoid worse problems later on.
There are different treatment options for childhood eye issues, ranging from corrective lenses to surgery. Eyeglasses are often the first-line treatment to make their vision clearer, so they do not have trouble seeing in class and during other activities.
Parents should also be aware of how a child’s vision changes as they get older. This may make it easier to identify any issues that are affecting their child’s vision throughout life.
How Often Should Children Visit the Eye Doctor?It is important to have a child’s vision and eye health assessed regularly, so any issues can be caught as early as possible. Children should have their first eye examination between 6 and 12 months old.
Children can start to experience vision issues early in life that an eye examination can catch. It is estimated that when it comes to preschoolers in the U.S., approximately 35 percent have farsightedness, astigmatism, or nearsightedness.
During an eye examination, doctors explore the following visual skills that children need for optimal learning:
Another examination should take place before children enter the first grade. After this point, children should have an eye examination once a year. If children have eye or vision issues, their doctor may recommend more frequent examinations.
Certain factors may increase a child’s risk of vision and eye issues. If these factors are present, eye doctors might want to see children more than once a year.
Some eye surgeries are not recommended for children. For example, it is not recommended that people under 18 have LASIK surgery. Children are not candidates for this surgery because their eyes are still growing.
Since the eyes are still growing and changing, a child’s vision will likely keep changing even after this type of surgery.
Learning About Eyeglasses for KidsWhen kids have certain eye conditions, such as refractive errors, eyeglasses can help them to achieve clearer vision. Many kids do not want to wear their eyeglasses, so parents may need to convince them to wear them regularly.
If a child needs to wear glasses, the following suggestions can help to make it easier for them:
How a Child’s Vision Changes With AgeWhen a child is born, their eyes are very sensitive to bright lights. While their central vision is not yet fully developed, they have good peripheral vision at this stage. At 2 to 4 months old, they are starting to track moving objects and focus. From 5 to 8 months, they develop recognition, reaching, color vision, and recall. Between 9 and 12 months, they are good at judging distance, allowing them to grasp and grip items.
Throughout early and middle childhood, a child’s tracking, depth perception, focus, and other vision elements continue to development. They start to be able to focus both eyes simultaneously on an object during this stage of childhood. Up until someone turns 21, their eyes continue to grow.
Regular VisitsRegular eye exams are the best way for parents to ensure their child’s vision health.
If any symptoms arise, see an eye doctor immediately. Otherwise, maintain a schedule of regular visits that is appropriate for the child’s age.
ReferencesRecommended Eye Examination Frequency for Pediatric Patients and Adults. American Optometric Association.
Eye Exams for Children. All About Vision.
Eye Muscle Surgery. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
LASIK Surgery: Is It for Kids? Everyday Health.
Eyeglasses for Infants and Children. Cleveland Clinic.
Baby’s Vision Development: What to Expect the First Year. American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Your Child’s Vision. KidsHealth from Nemours.
Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.