What should we pay attention to?
Some conditions, such as amblyopia, can be treated in babies and small children, but are irreversible once the child is grown up.
Therefore, in presence of any of the following symptoms, it is advisable to undergo a comprehensive eye exam performed by an ophthalmologist specializing in pediatric ophthalmology:
- Academic underachievement
- Lack of attention and focusing
- The child avoids activities such as reading, painting, drawing or playing games that require to focus in short distances
- Abnormal head positions (leaning his/her head in order to focus)
- Trouble in distinguishing colors
- Discomfort caused by light
- Eye redness
- Whitish spots in the pupillary area
Why are eye exams so important in babies, children and adolescents?
A good vision is essential for physical and mental development of children. Children academic achievements and general well-being will depend on this.
Babies and small children’s visual system is not still completely developed. They require information from both eyes in order for eyes to correctly send information to the brain.
When children eyes do not send clear images to the brain, their vision may be limited and it might not be corrected later in their lives. But if problems are early detected, it is usually possible to effectively treat them.
Eye exams in newborns
- Comprehensive eye exam
- Red reflex test
It is important to examine newborn eyes and perform a red reflex test (basic indicator that eyes function correctly), as well as to thoroughly examine any premature baby or baby at risk of suffering eye diseases due to a family history of severe eye diseases in childhood, together with abnormality signs.
Eye exams in babies from 6 to 12 months of age
It is necessary to carry out a second eye exam in healthy infants between the firsts six months and the first year of life.
Eye exams in children aged 1 to 2 years
Their vision capabilities in preverbal stages may be assessed by means of a test. Eye alignment will be also examined.
In case of children with misaligned eyes, amblyopia, or refractive errors, an eye exam will be performed in order to undertake a treatment as soon as possible.
Eye exams in children between 3 and 4 years of age
- Eye exam
- Eye alignment assessment with optotypes
- Visual acuity photometric exam
From three years of age and before the age of 4, it is essential to assess the child’s vision and eye alignment, together with visual acuity by means of an optotype once the child is able to cooperate.
Photometric exams are an alternative way of examining visual acuity with no need of child cooperation. It also helps to determine whether a child can focus at long, intermediate and short distances.
Regular eye exams from 4 years of age until adolescence
When the child starts attending school or at any moment where there is a suspicion of a possible eye disease, it is necessary to perform an eye exam in order to detect any misalignment or refractive error among other conditions.
Hyperopia is the most common refractive error among children of this age, and it needs to be corrected with the use of eyeglasses.
Most common eye conditions in this age group
Headaches and neck pain
Once the child has learned how to read, he misses words or doesn’t distinguish letters
Eyes do not move together to the same direction
Head tilting towards one side in order to look at specific areas
The child closes his eyes and rubs them frequently
The child closes an eye in order to focus on objects
Squinting in order to see at long distances
Get mistaken when recognizing people that are located at a long distance
Preference for activities requiring the use of near vision
Coming closer to objects in order to see them or read them
Watching TV or using the computer from really close distances
Squinting in order to focus
Family history of hyperopia
Headaches when performing activities requiring near vision
Eye strain after such activities
The child tilts his head backwards
Squinting in order to focus
Trouble in identifying colors
Morning rheum (infectious conjunctivitis)
Increase in ganglia (viral conjunctivitis)
Itching (allergic conjunctivitis)