Regular eye exams are important for children since their eyes can change significantly in as little as a year as the muscles and tissue develop. Good eyesight is critical for a child’s life and achievements since success in school is closely tied to eye health. School demands intense visual involvement, including reading, writing, using computers, and blackboard/smartboard work. Even physical activities and sports require strong vision. If their eyes aren’t up to the task, a child may feel tired, have trouble concentrating, have problems in school or have difficulty playing their favorite games which may affect their overall quality of life.
A child should have a comprehensive eye exam by the time they enter school around age 4-5. After that, routine eye health and vision screenings throughout childhood should be performed in order to help detect any abnormalities as their eyes develop. Then, unless otherwise recommended, every year thereafter until the age of 18.
A child’s visual acuity and eye alignment should be assessed. If the child is diagnosed with misaligned eyes (strabismus), "lazy eye” (amblyopia), refractive errors (astigmatism, myopia, hyperopia) or any other focusing problems, it’s important to begin treatment as soon as possible to ensure successful vision correction and life-long benefits.
At School age or upon entering school, the child’s eyes should be screened for visual acuity and alignment. In this age group, nearsightedness (myopia) is the most common refractive error and can be corrected with eyeglasses.
Remember that a school screening does not replace the need for a comprehensive eye examination.
There are some signs that parents can tell if their child has a vision problem. For example, the child may squint, hold reading materials very close to their face, or complain about things appearing blurry. However, there are some less obvious signs that may indicate vision problems, such as having a short attention span, quickly losing interest in games, projects or activities that require using their eyes for an extended period of time, or losing their place when reading. As well as choosing to avoid reading, drawing, playing games or doing other projects that require focusing up close. Another sign is that a child may turn his or her head to the side when looking at something in front of them. This may be a sign of a refractive error, including astigmatism, so by turning their head helps the child see better.
That’s why it is so important for kids to have regular eye exams with an optometrist. The earlier a vision problem is found and treated, the better off your child will be in and out of school.