The American Optometric Association (AOA) encourages parents to include a trip to the optometrist in the list of well-baby check-ups. Exams at six to 12 months of age can determine healthy development of vision. Early detection of eye conditions is the best way to ensure your child has healthy vision for successful development, now and in the future.
Pediatricians perform screening eye exams on newborns to check for infections or structural problems with the eyes: malformed eyelids, cataracts, glaucoma or other abnormalities. Though a baby's eyes are checked at birth, it is a good idea to schedule an eye examination for your baby. While the AOA recommends that children be checked at six months of age, your pediatrician will help you determine when an appropriate first visit is for your child. An infant eye examination is similar to that performed on adults. The doctor evaluates the baby’s medical history, vision, eye muscles and eye structures. The doctor will observe how the baby focuses, and whether or not both eyes are being used together as a team. At this age, the doctor will also check to make sure there are no diseases such as congenital cataracts or other eye problems, and will determine whether nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism is present.
Although a baby can’t provide any "subjective" input at this age, the doctor can perform several tests that will provide information about the child’s sight. Here is what to expect at your infant's first eye exam:
- The doctor assesses the baby’s vision. Does the infant react to light shone in the eyes? Will the baby look at a face or follow a moving toy? Other, more sophisticated vision tests may be used if needed.
- The doctor temporarily dilates the pupils with dilating drops. The eye doctor will use an instrument to test the baby’s eye for a refractive error, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism. Most babies are farsighted at birth but usually not enough to need glasses. However, a baby can wear glasses if needed.
- The doctor uses a lighted instrument with a magnifying glass (ophthalmoscope) to look inside the baby's eyes. With the use of an ophthalmoscoope, the doctor will be able to assess the overall health of the baby's eyes and detect any early signs of trouble.
Source: Lawrence M. Kaufman, MD, PhD. Your Baby's Eyes. University of Illinois Eye Center, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. 07 Nov 2005, 09 Jun 2007.