Recently a neighbor asked me, "What are some signs that a toddler needs glasses?" In conjunction with this is the equally common inquiry, "When do children need their first eye exam?" I thought this would be a great topic to discuss, because these are questions we hear all the time at the office.
We personally recommend children receive their first thorough eye exam before entering school. I use the term "thorough", because our doctors will conduct in-depth tests rather than the brief screening executed by a pediatrician or at school. While screenings are helpful, the results do not necessarily conclude that a child may or may not need glasses. In addition to the refraction (determining if there is or is not a prescription needed), our doctors also check the overall health and functioning of the child's eyes.
Optometrists can also perform exams on infants of any age. We are participants in the public health program called InfantSee, developed by the American Optometric Association. This program is for babies between six and twelve months old. There is no cost for this exam, regardless of income. The doctor will check the eye health, look for obvious nearsightedness, farsightedness, and/or astigmatism, and note if there is unusual eye movement. Please visit infantsee.org to learn more, should this interest you.
As far as signs of needing an eye exam or glasses, younger children may have a difficult time conveying complaints. Be on the lookout for things like squinting, holding things closer than normal to their face (or holding them further away) bumping into furniture, eye rubbing, or saying their head hurts often. Should you notice any of these, it may be time to see what's going on.
If your child does indeed need glasses, the timing could not be better. We have noticed over recent years that the youth's desire for glasses has increased dramatically. Perhaps it's the many glasses-wearing celebrities and characters. It could also be the drastic improvement of style and selection for children's frames. Older siblings or other family members who wear glasses are also a factor in the realization that frames are actually pretty cool. We have even had a few kids who were so very disappointed when they were told they didn't need glasses.
We absolutely adore our young patients. We do everything we can to help them feel comfortable, make them laugh, and pretty much spoil them. And helping them to find a pair frames that's right for them is so much fun. If you or someone you know have a little one who may be ready for their first exam, we would happily welcome them. Give us a call, or set up an appointment on our website!