Many parents assume that the vision screening performed at the pediatrician’s office is enough to believe their child doesn’t have a vision problem. But unfortunately, that is an incorrect assumption. Even the pediatricians will tell you that their screening test is not the same as a evaluation by an optometrist or ophthalmologist who specializes in children. In fact, over 30 percent of children pass a vision screening even though they have a vision problem. It’s just not correct to assume a vision screening is good enough. So, what does the eye doctor check for?
A comprehensive pediatric eye exam includes the following tests, adjusted for age and developmental status:
- Visual acuity – even without knowing letters, or even responding to questions, a pediatric eye doctor can asses what a child sees using age-specific testing equipment and techniques.
- Refractive error – is the child nearsighted, farsighted, or astigmatic?
- Binocular status – does the child use their eyes together efficiently, or do they rely on one eye more than the other, hindering normal development?
- Neurological status – many neurology problems can manifest with ocular findings.
- Genetic disorders – certain systemic and ocular problems are passed down the family tree so it’s important to have an evaluation if problems exists for the parents and/or grandparents.
- Retinal problems – although rare, certain retinal disorders may be present at birth. Some of these problems can be sight- or even life-threatening.
- Cataract and glaucoma – we tend to think of these conditions as reserved for the older population, but children can be born with either of these conditions and treatment needs to begin right away.
- Eyelid problems – some children are born with an eyelid that droops, call ptosis. In some cases, the droopy lid will prevent normal visual development. Other children may have problems with the inability for their tears to drain appropriately.
- Amblyopia – this is a condition where an eye does not properly develop due to various reasons. If caught early enough ( before 4 or 5 in many cases ), therapy can help the eye “catch up” developmentally.
So, for reassurance and to play it safe, be sure to have your child evaluated by a pediatric eye doctor. The American Optometric Association recommends a child have their first full evaluation around their third birthday, but if you suspect any problems with vision or their eyes in general, have your child’s eyes evaluated now.