Eye Exams for Infants
Many parents don't think about a vision exam for their new baby. Many depend on the pediatrician to tell them when it is time to see an eye doctor. This approach has the potential to negatively impact normal development.
Unlike hearing, which is fully developed at birth, vision is rudimentary. Vision develops over time. The visual system undergoes profound developmental changes during the first few years of life. Just as the pediatrician tests for physical development milestones, a residency-trained pediatric optometrist tests for vision development milestones.
Vision problems in children are more common than you may think. Vision disorders are the fourth most common disability in the United States, and the most prevalent handicapping condition in children. Yet only 13 percent of mothers with children younger than two years of age have taken their babies to see a vision care specialist for a comprehensive, dilated vision exam.
A Common Misconception
There is a common misconception that a child must be old enough to respond in order to have an eye exam. This is false. Residency-trained pediatric optometrists have the advanced training and clinical expertise to evaluate ocular health and determine an infant's prescription. Pediatric eye doctors are exceptionally skilled in using specialized, age-appropriate instruments such as a retinoscope, judging the reflex, and using appropriate lenses to determine the power and location of the prescription – none of which can be accomplished during a vision screening.
A comprehensive, dilated vision examination for an infant evaluates more than just prescription. A pediatric eye doctor assesses binocular vision skills, ocular posture (eye alignment), and ocular health.
Early diagnosis and treatment of vision problems can improve motor, cognitive and social development. Call our office to schedule an eye examination for your baby with one of our pediatric eye doctors.
Vision Screenings Miss Vision Problems In 2 Out Of 3 Children
Vision guides so much of your baby's development, so it is important that vision is developing properly even early in life. Just like you take your child to the pediatrician to make sure all developmental milestones are being met, you should also take them to a pediatric optometrist to ensure that visual development is on track as well. Many new parents think that vision screenings at the pediatrician's office count as eye exams, but these screenings are not comprehensive vision exams.
A residency-trained pediatric optometrist has the skills and knowledge to diagnose and manage conditions that can affect your child's vision, eyes, and development.
Yet only 13 percent of mothers with children younger than 2 years of age said they had taken their babies to see an eye and vision care professional for a regular check-up or well-care visit.
Moreover, many children at risk for eye and vision problems are not being identified at an early age, when many of those problems might be prevented or more easily corrected. Some 4.02 million children were born in 2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In approximately 4 percent, strabismus will develop, and amblyopia will develop in 3 percent–this equates to as many as 100,000 infants born each year who are at risk for serious eye and vision problems.
Early intervention is critical to successful and cost-effective treatment. Despite the nation’s present system of preschool vision screening, there exists a lack of understanding by the public of the importance of periodic professional eye and vision assessments. Unfortunately, during the course of their young lives, most children probably never see an eye care practitioner who can provide the kind of professional eye assessment necessary to identify critical eye and vision problems at an early stage, explain those conditions to parents, and provide the care necessary to correct those problems.
Questions To Ask When Choosing An Eye Doctor For Your Child
Is the doctor residency-trained in pediatrics?
Completing a residency is the best way for an optometrist to receive the specialized training it takes to work with infants, toddlers, and young children. Not all eye doctors have completed a residency, and even fewer have done so in the area of pediatrics. Be sure to ask where the doctor completed their residency in pediatrics.
How often does the doctor see patients that are your child's age?
Optometrists see patients of all ages, however a pediatric optometrist who has completed a residency program in pediatrics sees far more infants, toddlers, and young children. Just as your child will see a pediatrician, they should also see a pediatric optometrist who has been residency-trained.
Does the doctor use age-appropriate equipment to test your child's eyes?
You may be asking yourself "how could a doctor possibly test my child's eyes when they have not even said their first word yet?". Eye exams for infants rely heavily on objective findings and behavioral responses. This is why it is so important for your baby to see a pediatric optometrist who is familiar with infants and has the equipment necessary to examine a child who does not yet know their numbers, letters, or who has not said their first word.
Does the exam test age-appropriate vision development beyond how well the child sees?
Developmental vision milestones are a major focus of an InfantSEE exam. In addition to determining your child's visual acuity (how clearly they see), their prescription, and whether or not any eye diseases are present, it is also important that the doctor be aware of vision development. Proper development of the visual system allows your child's overall development to take place.