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How Often Do Kids Need Eye Exams?

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Happy girl at optometrist office undergoing eye exam by her eye doctor

If you’re a parent, you may be wondering how often you need to have your child’s eyes checked.

So much of kids’ learning happens visually, so their visual system must be working smoothly. But, unfortunately, children don’t usually know what their vision is supposed to be like and may not realize they are experiencing symptoms. 

Poor vision can lead to many problems beyond your kids’ eye health and can affect how they learn and develop. Common eye conditions such as glaucoma and dry eye may be manageable if caught early. That’s why it’s essential to understand how often to take your child in for an eye exam, especially as they enter school. 

Keep reading to learn more about why childrens’ eye exams are essential, how often your child should see their eye doctor, and what vision symptoms you should look out for. 

Why Are Eye Exams Important for Children?

As previously mentioned, children learn by interacting with their environment. A lot of this learning is done visually. If your child is unable to do this properly, it can affect their physical, cognitive and social development as well as their overall well-being. 

Vision problems in children are quite common. In fact, research shows that up to 10 percent of preschoolers and up to 25 percent of school-age children have vision disorders.

The only way to know for sure if your child has the visual skills and abilities they need is to ensure your child receives routine comprehensive eye exams. 

How Do You Know if Your Child Has Vision Issues?

If your child is suffering from a vision condition, there are a few signs and symptoms that you can watch out for. If you notice any of the following symptoms, schedule an eye exam for your child, no matter when their last exam was:

  • Red, itchy or watery eyes 
  • Eye discharge 
  • Squinting or rubbing the eyes
  • Covering or closing one eye to see
  • Tilting the head to see
  • Sensitivity to or avoidance of light
  • Blinking more than usual
  • Lack of concentration, especially at school
  • Holding objects close to their face to see
  • Clumsiness
  • Complaining of a headache or eye pain 
  • Avoiding activities needing distance vision
  • Trouble focusing or making eye contact
  • Misaligned eyes 
  • Difficulty following objects or people with their eyes
  • Avoiding activities such as reading, playing sports or watching TV 

When Should You Bring Your Child in for an Eye Exam? 

How often your child should receive an eye exam is dependent on a few factors. These factors include:

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Medical history 

If your child is not deemed a high risk for eye conditions or diseases, we recommend seeing your eye doctor based on the following age-related guidelines:

  • 0-6 months of age: Your child should have their first comprehensive eye exam
  • 3 years of age: You should have their second eye exam unless otherwise recommended by your child’s eye doctor
  • 5-6 years of age: Your child should receive their third eye exam just before they enter the first grade 
  • 6-18 years of age- Once your child has reached school-age, they should have an eye exam every two years

If your child needs vision correction and needs eyeglasses or contact lenses, your eye doctor may recommend more frequent eye exams. 

Young girl accompanied by her mother during eye exam at optometrist office.

What Does a Doctor Look For in an Eye Exam?

When your child receives an eye exam, their eye doctor will check their eyes’ overall health, vision, and condition. Their eye doctor will perform a complete vision screening as well as a comprehensive examination that tests for common eye conditions such as:

When performing a comprehensive eye examination, your child’s eye doctor will also consider family and medical history to assess for additional conditions and diseases.

If your child’s eye doctor recommends corrective eyewear, they will do more tests to determine the prescription your child needs. 

Tips for Managing Your Child’s Eye Health 

As a parent, you do everything you can to make sure your child is healthy. The best way to ensure your child’s visual health is taken care of is by:

  • Watching for the common signs and symptoms of vision problems in your child
  • Making sure your child gets their eyes examined regularly according to the guidelines previously mentioned
  • Ensure you and your child follow the recommendations mentioned by your child’s eye doctor

The Takeaway

Your child’s vision is not only crucial for their eye health but dramatically affects their overall health and well-being as well. The only way to make sure your child’s eyes are working properly is by getting their eyes examined by their eye doctor.

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s eye health, book an appointment today!

Written by Dr. Leslie E. O’Dell

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