Part 1: So, eye doctors do exams on babies? How does that even work? Why bother?

People love their kids, that’s pretty much a given fact. Everyone wants to make sure they do the best they can to help their kids be everything they want to be! You take them in for their shots and check ups, make sure their teeth are healthy with the dentist and keep them busy with sports or music or any number of things! What many parents forget is to have their child’s eyes checked by an Optometrist.

I completely understand how this happens: People don’t think we can do eye exams on young kids; they think that little Timmy sees just fine thank you very much; they just don’t think it’s necessary!  The thing is the consequences of assuming everything is fine can be quite serious. It's much better to check and know everything is fine than to not check and hope for the best.

Optometrists are fully trained to do eye exams on just about anyone including small children. We actually start seeing kids as young as 6 months (and we really only wait that long because the eyes are still learning how to work together properly before then). I know you’re thinking “But, what on earth are you going to do with my 6 month old!” Don’t worry. We don’t require that our patients answer all those questions to get the information we need. Without any questions we can still assess the three major areas all optometrists check: how well the eyes focus, how well the eyes work together and how healthy the eyes are inside and out.

To check how well the eyes focus, especially on kids or people who are non-verbal, optometrists use a tool called a retinoscope. When we shine it back and forth at someone’s eyes we see a light reflex. Depending on how that reflex moves we can tell if someone is near-sighted, far-sighted or has astigmatism. We use lenses to ‘neutralize’ that reflex and that tells us  what the prescription is. We can do this on anyone of any age but it only gives us an estimate of the prescription so we still ask adults all those darn questions. Most kids don’t have a significant prescription, even if they may develop one later in life. Some children though have very extreme prescriptions. If the prescription isn’t corrected it can lead to amblyopia, a condition that prevents someone from having  clear vision even with glasses on.  

A lot of parents assume that if their child hasn’t complained they must not have a problem. This isn’t accurate for a couple reasons. If only one eye is affected your little guy can see just fine… it’s just only out of one eye. Since most kids don’t walk around with one eye closed they don’t usually notice the problem! The other issue is that kids don’t really know what they should be seeing, especially when they’re very young. If both eyes are affected he or she may not realize there’s a problem and assume that this is just how everyone sees. It’s not until they’re much older, 7 or 8, that they start to realize something isn’t quite right at which point it’s almost too late to treat.

Our next blog will continue to explore kids eye exams and talk a bit more about how our eyes work together, eye health and how we check those out on young kids.

If you have more questions about this, or any other topic, always feel welcome to contact us on Twitter, Facebook, Google + or via our website.

For more information about children's eye exams check out the links below:

Eye Exams for Infants

Eye Exams for Preschoolers

Eye Exams for School Age Children