As parents, the health and wellbeing of our children is our responsibility until they reach adulthood. There are many things to think about, but something that often gets overlooked is the necessity to take our children for regular pediatric eye exams.
Eye exams are just as important for children as they are for adults, if not more so. This is because your child’s eyes are still growing and their vision is still developing. This makes them susceptible to issues and eye diseases. Children with a family history of childhood vision problems are generally more likely to experience issues themselves.
Some of the most common childhood eye problems include:
- Amblyopia: also known as lazy eye, it occurs when an eye doesn’t develop a normal vision or when a child doesn’t get treated for other eye problems, such as nearsightedness and congenital cataracts.
- Strabismus: strabismus is characterized by crossed or misaligned eyes. The child can seem as though they are looking in different directions. It’s important to treat strabismus as soon as possible.
- Conjunctivitis: an often highly contagious viral or bacterial eye infection.
- Myopia: better known as nearsightedness, children with myopia have difficulty seeing objects that are far away.
- Astigmatism: this condition is caused by an irregularly shaped cornea that causes light to be focused on multiple points inside the eye.
Regular pediatric eye exams are one of the most effective ways of identifying vision problems in children, who may not necessarily have the verbal communication skills necessary to explain the symptoms that they are experiencing. Very young children may not even be aware that there is something wrong. Nevertheless, spotting vision problems is essential for your child to develop the visual skills that they need to help them through life. This is especially true when it comes to their education since around 80% of learning is presented visually. Studies estimate that as many as 20% of children have uncorrected vision problems and many of these are misdiagnosed with learning difficulties and behavior problems when it is a poor vision that is preventing them from achieving their potential or interacting normally with their peers. Unfortunately, untreated vision problems often get worse, rather than better. Severe myopia is also more likely to lead to other, potentially sight-threatening conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration.
The American Optometric Association recommends that after the initial eye evaluation that your baby receives when they are first born, a child’s first eye exam takes place between 6 and 12 months of age. Santa Barbara Eyecare and Dr. Cailyn Katsev participates in the InfantSEE program – a public health program that is managed by Optometry Cares - the AOA Foundation. Under InfantSEE all children are entitled to a comprehensive pediatric eye exam between 6 and 12 months of age, regardless of their family income or access to insurance.
Beyond this, children should attend pediatric eye exams around the ages of 3 and then 5. After this, a routine schedule of examinations should be followed, which is a visit every two years unless your pediatric eyecare team advises you otherwise.
Regular pediatric eyecare exams are the best way to protect the long-term health of your child’s eyes and their vision. If you would like to learn more or to schedule an appointment, please contact Santa Barbara Eyecare at (805) 967-9990 today.