Vision has a tremendous impact on your child's ability to learn, play and interact with others. Poor vision can lead to an inability to focus on assignments, which may lead to low grades and general frustration for you and your child.
The good news is poor vision can be easily diagnosed and corrected. It's no wonder well-intentioned parents and doctors often request specialty care in the hopes of giving children the best possible chance to succeed.
At Sharp Rees-Stealy, we empower our patients to make well-informed health care decisions. We've made it our priority to reduce the number of ineffective medical treatments by being the only medical group in Southern California to participate in the national campaign, Choosing Wisely. Choosing Wisely educates patients and doctors on selecting the most effective treatment available and avoiding unproductive, costly procedures.
"It's important to talk with your child's primary care provider about the vision needs of your child. Most people don't realize that children are not born with perfect vision," says Dr. Maedi Bartolacci, pediatric optometrist at Sharp Rees-Stealy.
Just as the body grows and develops, Dr. Bartolacci says the eyes and core components of the visual system develop over time as well. She recommends that your child have a comprehensive eye exam once during infancy (0 to 2 years), once during the pre-school years (3 to 5 years) and then again during the school-aged years (over 6 years) to ensure proper ocular and visual development.
Annual comprehensive eye exams
Annual comprehensive eye exams performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist are not required if your child performs well on routine vision screenings — your pediatrician or family medicine doctor will do this basic test every year. It is designed to highlight vision problems, such as amblyopia, or "lazy eye." Your child may require more frequent comprehensive eye exams if he or she:
- fails a routine vision screening
- has been diagnosed with a vision problem
- has a family history of vision or eye problems
- has been performing poorly in school
Over-the-counter, non-prescription reading glasses, like those at your local drug store, should not be used for children who fail their doctor's general vision screening. A few symptoms that may indicate the need for prescription reading glasses include:
- frequent squinting, eye crossing or eye rubbing
- complaints about not wanting to read because of tired eyes or double vision problems while reading or doing school work
If your child requires a comprehensive eye exam, the optometrist or ophthalmologist will perform a dilated eye exam, which is the best way to look for abnormal internal ocular conditions.
Retinal imaging enables your optometrist to take photos of the retina — the part of the eye that sees light. Most children don't require these tests unless there are pre-diagnosed risk factors present, including:
- retinal or optic nerve issues
- diabetes, which can damage the retina
- low vision that doesn't get better with prescription glasses
As a parent, you know how important it is to maintain a healthy environment for your child. It's OK to ask questions in order to feel comfortable with the care you receive. Your doctor is your best source of information when it comes to your family's health.