Most responsible parents will have their child regularly checked by a pediatrician, but how many can say the same about annual checkups with a pediatric ophthalmologist?
As important as the eyes are, it’s surprising how many parents will overlook regular checkups with an eye doctor, that is, of course, unless they believe something is wrong. In order to be certain that your child isn’t exhibiting any signs of eye problems, it is necessary that you see a pediatric ophthalmologist at least once a year. The age at which your child should have their first doctor’s visit may vary slightly due to a number of factors. After this initial exam, it’s important that you continue to have your child tested at least once a year.
Many eye conditions can be treated, and even reversed, if caught early. This can save your child from a lifetime of poor vision or in some cases even worse. Many times your child won’t exhibit identifiable symptoms until the condition has progressed to a point that it is difficult to treat. Just like regular checkups with your pediatrician are all about preventative care, so too are regular visits to the eye doctor.
When is the Best Time for Your Child’s First Checkup?
As a parent, it’s sometimes difficult to know when exactly it would be best to get your child their first eye exam. Many believe that since an infant is incapable of reading an eye chart, that it’s not necessary to get their eyes checked. Even worse, some parents believe that they don’t need to visit a pediatric ophthalmologist unless their child is exhibiting signs or symptoms of vision problems. By doing this, serious problems can easily go undetected by the parents; this can lead to diminished vision, cross eyes, a lazy eye or worse.
Most of these can be easily prevented if caught early enough by a well-trained pediatric ophthalmologist. Therefore, as a general rule, it’s a good idea to take your child to the eye doctor for the first time at around six to twelve months old. This is unless your child is exhibiting symptoms of vision problems, in which case they should be seen immediately. It’s a good idea to trust your intuition on this in the first year, as your child can’t quite communicate what’s bothering them yet.
You should also visit a pediatric ophthalmologist earlier if your baby is genetically predisposed to vision problems. A child is more likely to have vision problems if a close family member or sibling also suffered from vision problems as an infant. If this is the case you should only take your child to see a pediatric ophthalmologist and not a regular optometrist. Since your child is still unable to speak, and their young eyes are still developing, it’s important to take them to someone who is trained specifically to deal with an infant’s eyes. Once your child has had their first visit to the eye doctor, it is vital that you continue with regular visits from then on. Ideally, you should make an appointment at least one time per year.
What are Pediatric Ophthalmologists Checking For?
In a routine eye exam, your eye doctor will be checking your child for a variety of common, and some not so common conditions. The primary conditions that they will look out for are farsightedness, nearsightedness and astigmatism. On top of these more common vision problems, they will also be looking for eye diseases or other issues which could result in loss of vision. The doctor should also look for signs of amblyopia and strabismus, as well as other conditions such as high cholesterol and diabetes. An experienced eye doctor can gather a lot of information through a simple eye examination.
What Are the Benefits to Regular Eye Exams for a Young Child?
There are many benefits to scheduling regular eye examinations for your child, so many in fact, that an article can easily be written on this topic alone. It would be beyond the scope of this article to name all of these benefits, but we’ll focus on the main ones now.
Vision Problems Can Negatively Impact a Child’s Grades
This is one of the primary reasons that you should look into correcting any vision problems your child has prior to beginning school. A study done by Ohio State University confirmed that children who are farsighted are at higher risk of falling behind in school. In the study, a group of over 500 preschoolers and kindergarteners were examined, and those that were moderately farsighted had significantly worse scores on attention-related tests. Farsightedness, or hyperopia, is a condition that is found in up to 14% of young children but can easily be fixed with corrective lenses.
Reading, writing, looking at a computer monitor and being able to see the chalkboard all depend on having good eyesight. Those that can’t see properly tend to fall behind, causing frustration and low self-esteem. If their grades fall behind enough, this can potentially impact the rest of their lives, from their ability to go to college to pursuing their dream career. Most sight issues are easily fixed with a pair of glasses or contact lenses, making it unnecessary for your child to struggle with their vision in the classroom.
When Caught Early, Many Eye Conditions can Be Resolved
As your child grows, there are many conditions that may develop within their eyes. Some of these conditions, such as lazy eyes or cross eyes, can easily be corrected if caught early. These two somewhat common conditions can easily be fixed, usually by wearing an eyepatch.
Therefore, it’s preferable that these conditions are detected early, as a baby is far more willing to wear an eyepatch than a teenager would be. Another reason that it’s so important to catch any eye condition that may be developing in your child early is because if left untreated, many conditions will worsen. They may even become impossible to fix if left untreated for long enough.
Problems in the Eyes Could Indicate a More Serious Condition
When your child’s eyes are examined, the doctor isn’t only testing for vision problems, but for more serious conditions as well. An example of this is if your child develops cataracts, there is a strong likelihood that they may be diabetic. Other concerns such as triglyceride and cholesterol problems or thyroid imbalances can be diagnosed through the eyes as well.
Poor Vision Can Lead to Other Issues
It is not uncommon for a child that is having trouble seeing to develop other problems such as headaches and hyperactivity. Children that have trouble reading in school oftentimes also have difficulties paying attention in class. This makes sense; after all, if you’re unable to read the textbooks or the content on the chalkboard you’d most likely stop paying attention as well. This can even lead to a misdiagnoses of ADHD if the child is brought to a pediatrician prior to seeing an eye doctor. Your child could potentially be put on unnecessary and harmful prescription drugs when all that they needed was a pair of glasses.
The same goes for headaches. Severe headaches can often be a result of poor vision. This is another great reason to visit your eye doctor and make sure that your child’s headache or hyperactivity problems don’t just stem from an easily fixed vision problem.
Helps Your Child to Develop Good Habits at a Young Age
As your child ages, it’s important that he develops positive habits when it comes to maintaining his health. Regularly taking them to an eye doctor helps them to establish the importance of maintaining the health of their entire body, including their eyes, at an early age. If taught this lesson early it is far more likely that they will continue to get regular eye exams well into adulthood. For this same reason, it’s also important to maintain regular doctor and dentist visits.
When you have a new baby it can be a scary and stressful time. You want to do everything right to take the best possible care of your new little bundle of joy. So when you’re taking care of your baby, it’s important to have every part of their body, including their eyes, examined by an experienced doctor. It is also important that you do this for the first time within your child’s first year of life. An experienced pediatric ophthalmologist can test a child’s vision well before he can speak so that you can begin treating any potential conditions as soon as they arise. Having good vision and quality eye health is important for a growing child for a number of reasons. From being able to succeed in school, to managing conditions such as hyperactivity and headaches, correcting vision problems can have almost miraculous results for the wellbeing of your baby. So do as any responsible parent should, and take your child to a pediatric ophthalmologist so that they are given the chance to live their best possible life.