Children don’t usually receive routine eye exams until age 3, but many issues, like amblyopia, or lazy eye, are easiest to treat — via patching or glasses — when detected early. It's important for parents to know what to look for in little kids, since “after age 10, the brain loses most of its ability to compensate for better vision,” says K. David Epley, M.D., a pediatric ophthalmologist in Kirkland, WA. Here’s what you need to know in order to spot problems as soon as possible and protect your cutie’s vision at every age:
Watch for excessive tearing, constant eye turning, extreme sensitivity to light, and whitening of the pupils. Technology such as the app GoCheck Kids, which helps docs analyze a photo of your child’s eyes, can detect vision issues in children as young as 6 months, says Dr. Epley.
At Age 2
Does your child sit very close to the TV or hold books close to her eyes? Does she squint, tilt her head, or rub her eyes a lot? These early signs of vision trouble should be checked out by a doctor.
At Age 3
Pediatricians should start vision exams using a picture chart.
At Age 5
Kids should have their vision and eye alignment checked by their doctor. If they struggle with these tests, a visit to an optometrist or ophthalmologist is in order.
After Age 6
Routine screenings should happen at school and the pediatrician’s office. Report double vision or complaints of frequent headaches to your pediatrician.
“My 9-year-old wants to trade glasses for contacts. Is she too young?”
“Optometrists don’t routinely fit children for contacts until they’re 10, but younger kids may be ready,” says Jeffrey J. Walline, O.D., Ph.D., associate professor of optometry at the Ohio State University School of Optometry in Columbus, OH. If your daughter is responsible enough to practice proper hygiene, such as washing her hands before handling the lenses and not sleeping in them, go for it, says Dr. Walline. To lower the risk of infection, ask your daughter’s doc about disposables, which eliminate the need for daily cleaning.