Few things are more important than your child’s vision, and it is essential that comprehensive eye exams begin early in your child’s life. They should have their first complete eye exam at six months of age, again at age 3, and once a year thereafter. The early detection of vision disorders is extremely important, because 5 to 10 percent of preschoolers and 25 percent of school-aged children have vision problems. Many of these children accept poor vision and other eye ailments as normal, and, if left unchecked, can result in more serious long-term effects to their eye health and vision. Here’s what to expect in your child’s eye exam and what you can do to make them feel safe and comfortable, and to help ensure that the exam is a success.
PREPARING FOR THE EXAM
Before the exam, properly preparing your child for their visit to the optometrist can make all the difference. Take time to discuss with your child what will happen during their visit to the ‘eye doctor’. Ensure that your child understands the optometrist may ask them to identify letters or shapes, put in eye drops, and look at some lights. For infants and toddlers, try to plan the exam outside of their usual nap time, when they will be more alert. When entering the optometrist’s office, reassure your child there is nothing to be afraid of. Tell them they’ll be looking at pictures and playing games, and that there will be a reward for them after the exam. Consider bringing along their favourite toy to keep them company or a snack for them to munch on. If your child has any special needs, it may be necessary for you to budget for a longer exam. If you need any extra accommodation before the exam, let your optometrist know well ahead of time.
Your child’s eye exam will include a visual acuity test, which examines how well your child sees at different distances. If your child is too young to read, the optometrist will likely use some form of shape and letter test. Your child’s depth perception, eye movement, and pupil response will also be tested. The eye exam will include testing for nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), astigmatism, and lazy eye. The assessment of any structural abnormalities of the eye, the presence of any disease, and any visual dysfunction affecting reading ability, will also be conducted. Be sure to tell the optometrist if your child displays any frequent eye rubbing, excessive blinking, poor eye tracking skills, or an inability to maintain proper eye contact. You may also be asked about your child’s birth history, such as birth weight and whether or not he or she was full-term, as this could affect their eye health.
The optometrist may conduct a dilated eye exam, which is the application of some eye drops in your child’s eyes. This will not be painful but may tickle for a few moments. The focus of the drops is to dilate the pupils and to accurately measure the refractive power of the eye which is critical in evaluating your child’s visual function. Dilating the pupils also allows for a complete view of the retina and optic nerve and for the optometrist to check for any abnormalities inside the eye. After the dilating drops are given, the optometrist shines a light in the eye and looks at the focus of the light that has been reflected through the eye. The optometrist will then place different lenses in front of the eye until the focus looks right. This will determine the focusing capability of the eye and determine whether or not the child needs corrective lenses to see better. If it is determined that your child needs glasses, then the optometrist will prescribe the appropriate eyewear, or, if the child is old enough, prescription contact lenses may also be considered.
Vision screenings offered by family doctors and the school district are a great tool in detecting certain eye conditions, but a full examination of visual function and ocular health by an optometrist provides a much better indication of overall eye health.
At iSight Optometry, your eye-care is our first and last priority. Not only are we the friendliest office in town, we also utilise all of the latest technologies to best assess the health of your eyes. So whether young or old, from birth to youth to adulthood to middle age to the golden years, please request an appointment or come drop by our office. We’d love to see you.