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When Should A Child Eye Exam Be Done?

Parents are often not able to detect if their child is having problems seeing and needs eyeglasses. Catching vision problems at an early age is very important. Undiagnosed vision problems can result in learning problems, behavioural problems, and even permanent decreased vision. It is for these reasons that the Alberta Association of Optometrists recommends that a child eye exam be performed on all children between 6 and 9 months of age.

What A Doctor Can Detect In A Child Eye Exam

Children learn by seeing. It is often the main way in which they learn. If the child has poor vision, his or her ability to learn is often greatly impacted. In most cases, a trip to the optometrist’s office will get to the bottom of any concerns or problems. During a child eye exam, the optometrist can determine weather your child is hyperopic (farsighted), myopic (nearsighted), or has an astigmatism (where light focuses in the eye in many points, because it is obliged shaped, more like an egg or football). An astigmatism can be combined with both nearsighted and farsightedness. Depth perception, colour vision, and the ability to focus will also be tested. The doctor also checks to see how the eyes work and align together. Other problems such as lazy eyes (amblyopia), crossed eyes (strabismus), and even rare types of eye cancers can also be detected during the child eye exam. Many problems in children must be caught early, in order to correct the child’s vision. If not corrected early, these problems can result in a permanent decrease in vision.

For children, eye exams are recommended yearly. The eye doctor may also recommend an eye exam more frequently, if needed. This is not uncommon, because as the child grows, hit or her vision or prescription can change fast and frequently. It is recommended to try and schedule the child’s first appointment when they are alert, happy, relaxed, and have a full tummy. Do not schedule an eye exam during a child’s nap time. In order to examine the child’s eyes, the doctor will need some cooperation from the child. Be prepared to answer some questions pertaining to the child, such as their medical history, allergies, as well as a list of any medications the child may be taking. Mention if there is a family history or lazy eyes (amblyopia), crossed eyes (strabismus), glaucoma, cataracts,  or any other conditions that needed visual correction.  Also mention if the child was a premature delivery.

Signs And Symptoms to Watch For

Some signs and symptoms to watch for, that may indicate problems or concerns in visions:

What is a Cyclo or Cycloplegic Exam?

In some cases, after the child eye exam, the optometrist may request that you return with your child for an additional exam, called a cyclo (cycloplegic) exam. A cyclo exam is and eye exam where eye drops are put into the child’s eyes. These special drops relax the muscles within the eye that aid in the focusing of the child’s visual system. Usually two sets of drops are put into the child’s eyes. The first set of drops numbs the eyes, where the second set of drops do all the work, in knocking out the focusing muscles of the eyes. If the numbing drops are not used, the second set of drops would sting more. After the drops take effect, the doctor then does a refraction to find out what prescription is needed. Children have a great ability to accommodate or compensate for their prescription. When a cyclo exam is done, the doctor is able to determine and more accurately measure the child’s actual prescription.

Usually after the cyclo exam, the only side effects from the drops is some blurry vision and sensitivity to light which usually resolves within 12 hours. It is suggested, after the exam that the child wears sunglasses while outdoors to reduce some of the discomfort caused from having their pupils dilated.

Alberta Health Care understands the importance of good vision, especially in children. Therefore, Alberta Health Care pays for and recommends for children to have annual eye exams!

Article written by: Karen McAulay



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