Eye exams are especially important for children, as their eyes are still developing. The importance of yearly eye exams cannot be understated. Even children with no obvious signs of eyesight issues need to see the eye doctor regularly. Comprehensive eye exams frequently catch larger health problems that a routine physical won’t. If a child shows signs of vision problems, they should visit the eye doctor immediately.

What causes poor eyesight in children?

Many conditions can contribute to poor eyesight in both children and adults. With children, vision problems can manifest at any age, but tend to show up most frequently around age 4 for one of the following reasons:

  • Myopia and hyperopia

Also known as nearsightedness and farsightedness. These conditions result in distant or close objects appearing blurry. 

  • Astigmatism

Astigmatism is caused by an imperfectly shaped cornea which can also cause blurry vision.

  • Amblyopia

“Lazy eye” means the brain is only receiving complete vision signals from one eye.

  • Strabismus

When the eyes seem permanently crossed or walled, it is called strabismus. Typically this blurs vision and can cause double vision, as well.

Signs of vision problems

It can be surprisingly difficult to tell if a child is having vision issues. Many children who have grown up with subpar eyesight may not understand that their vision is less than optimal and so won’t mention anything to parents or teachers. Adults should be on the lookout for symptoms of vision issues, some of which can be quite subtle.

  • Poor or declining academic performance
  • Avoiding tasks which require visual focusing
  • Loss of interest in sports or other activities

Don’t trust the vision exams given at schools. These quick tests are not comprehensive and frequently miss children with vision problems. It is not uncommon for children to cheat on these tests to avoid being embarrassed in front of their classmates.

Pediatrician or optometrist?

There are two options for a child’s eye care. The ideal situation is for an optometrist to give your child a full eye exam once every one or two years. Optometrists have access to the most accurate tests and equipment and can give a truly comprehensive exam.

However, it is oftentimes acceptable for a semi-comprehensive eye exam to be part of a child’s yearly pediatric visit instead, and to call an optometrist if a problem is found. This can be a good option for people with limited finances or insurance that won’t cover full eye exams.

When should eye exams begin?

A child’s eyesight develops rapidly for the first year of their lives and continues to improve beyond that. Typically, children do not need to begin having eye exams until they are around 3 years old unless symptoms are noted.

Signs that a baby or toddler may have eye or vision problems include sensitivity to light, physical abnormalities in the eye, persistent eye rubbing, or poor visual tracking.

Handling childhood vision issues

The most common solution to poor vision in children is prescription eyeglasses. Most common issues can be remedied with a good pair of glasses, but not all of them. In rare cases, vision therapy or even surgery may be required.

The first step towards addressing a child’s vision problems is to have them seen by an eye doctor. The doctor will be able to give an exact diagnosis and prescribe any needed vision aids or procedures.

Children and glasses

While other treatments may be needed, the odds are your child’s optometrist will recommend a sturdy pair of eyeglasses. Getting children to wear prescription glasses (and to care for them properly) can be difficult. Small children may be bothered by the feel of glasses, and older children may be upset at the way glasses make them look. It is important to be encouraging and firm when it comes to wearing eyeglasses.

Sometimes the answer is as easy as a stylish pair of frames. If your eye doctor presents limited frame options, consider ordering another pair of glasses online. The custom frames from 39DollarGlasses are designed with children in mind. Not only are they fun and colorful, but they offer 100 percent UV-resistant lenses to protect a child’s developing eyes.

Contact lenses are another option for children who do not want to wear glasses. Contacts can be a great choice for teenagers, especially those who play sports. While there is no age limit on who can wear contact lenses, it is important not to give children this option until they are old enough to be trusted with properly cleaning and caring for their lenses. Improper contact lens care will result in frequent and potentially dangerous eye infections.

Don’t wait, start yearly eye exams now

There is no advantage to procrastinating eye care. Many eye problems can be swiftly solved if caught early. Problems like amblyopia and strabismus especially benefit from prompt detection and treatment.