Your Child's Eye Care
Eye Care professionals recommend a continuum of eye care for children that can include both vision screening and comprehensive eye exams. All children, even those with no signs of trouble, should have their eyes checked at regular intervals. Any child who experiences vision problems or shows symptoms of eye trouble should receive a comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor (an optometrist or an ophthalmologist.)
The following information will help you learn more about when to take your child to an eye doctor and how to make the most of your child’s eye doctor appointment.
WHEN TO TAKE YOUR CHILD TO THE EYE DOCTOR
You May Have Noticed One or More Signs of a Vision Problem in Your Child:
If you notice one or more of these signs, take your child to an eye doctor right away.
What do your child’s eyes look like?
• Eyes don’t line up, one eye appears crossed or looks out!
• Eyelids are red-rimmed, crusted or swollen
• Eyes are watery or red (inflamed)
How does your child act?
• Rubs eyes a lot
• Closes or covers one eye
• Tilts head or thrusts head forward
• Has trouble reading or doing other close-up work, or holds objects close to eyes to see
• Blinks more than usual or seems cranky when doing close-up work
• Things are blurry or hard to see
• Squints eyes or frowns
What does your child say?
• “My eyes are itchy,” “my eyes are burning” or “my eyes feel scratchy.””I can’t see very well.”
• After doing close-up work, your child says “I feel dizzy,” “I have a headache” or “I feel sick/nauseous.”
• “Everything looks blurry,” or “I see double.”
Remember, your child may still have an eye problem even if he or she does not complain or has not shown any unusual signs.
Your Child Was Recommended for an Eye Exam as the Result of a Children’s Vision Screening:
Your child may have been referred to an eye doctor as the result of a certified Prevent Blindness vision screening at his or her preschool or other event.
Your child’s pediatrician may also screen your child’s vision as part of a well child visit, and may recommend that your child see an eye doctor if signs of a vision problem are present. Only an eye doctor (an ophthalmologist or an optometrist) can give your child an eye exam.
Your Child May Have a Risk Factor for Eye Disease or Eye Problems:
Some children are more likely to have eye problems. Your child’s doctor should be aware of the following factors that may make your child more likely to develop a vision problem:
• Your child was born prematurely
• You have a family history of eye problems (such as childhood cataract, lazy eye (amblyopia), misaligned eyes or eye tumors
• Your child has had an eye injury (problems resulting from childhood eye injuries may develop much later in life)
• If your child has any of these risk factors, take him or her to see an eye doctor.
• Children with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam at least once a year.
HOW WILL AN EYE DOCTOR TREAT MY CHILD’S VISION PROBLEM?
Eye care professionals use many different treatments to correct a child’s eye problems. These treatments may be used alone or in combination.
Glasses compensate for refractive error, correct a focusing problem, or overcome an eye turn. Glasses can help your child to see clearly even though he or she may be farsighted, nearsighted or have astigmatism.
Eye drops or ointments are used to treat infections, glaucoma, and sometimes even strabismus or amblyopia.
Patching one eye is common in treating amblyopia.
Surgery may be needed to remove the lens if it has a cataract, reduce the pressure of glaucoma, halt vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy, or adjust an eye muscle if strabismus exists.
Eye exercises (orthoptics) can improve focusing and help the eyes move better and work together.
HELPFUL TIPS FOR YOUR CHILD’S EYE DOCTOR VISIT
By following these tips, you can help make the most of your child’s trip to the eye doctor.
1. Ask your relatives, friends and neighbors if they know the name of an eye doctor who is good with children.
2. Schedule the appointment when your child is not likely to be sleepy or hungry. If your child has a “cranky” time of day, schedule around it.
3. Make a list of your questions and bring it with you. Take notes when speaking to the doctor, so that you can refer to them later.
4. Have a plan ready in case you need to spend time in the waiting room. Bring a favorite storybook, coloring book or small toy that your child can play with quietly. A snack can also help to pass the time.
5. Let your child watch a family member get an eye exam. Have the doctor explain what is being done, step-by-step, and encourage the child to ask questions.
6. Bring your child’s favorite cuddly toy. The doctor can “examine” the bear or doll and holding a toy may keep little hands off of expensive equipment.
7. Relax. Children look to adults for cues: if you seem nervous, your child may become anxious. A trip to the eye doctor should be fun for both of you.