Prevent Blindness recommends a continuum of eye care for children that can include both vision screening and comprehensive eye exams. All children, even those with no signs of trouble, should have their eyes checked at regular intervals. Any child who experiences vision problems or shows symptoms of eye trouble should receive a comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor (an optometrist or an ophthalmologist.)
The following information will help you learn more about when to take your child to an eye doctor and how to make the most of your child’s eye doctor appointment.
You May Have Noticed One or More Signs of a Vision Problem in Your Child
If you notice one or more of these signs, take your child to an eye doctor right away.
Your Child Was Recommended for an Eye Exam as the Result of a Children’s Vision Screening
Your child may have been referred to an eye doctor as the result of a certified Prevent Blindness vision screening at his or her preschool or other event.
Your child’s pediatrician may also screen your child’s vision as part of a well child visit, and may recommend that your child see an eye doctor if signs of a vision problem are present. Only an eye doctor (an ophthalmologist or an optometrist) can give your child an eye exam.
Your Child May Have a Risk Factor for Eye Disease or Eye Problems
Some children are more likely to have eye problems. Your child’s doctor should be aware of the following factors that may make your child more likely to develop a vision problem:
- Your child was born prematurely
- You have a family history of eye problems (such as childhood cataract, lazy eye (amblyopia), misaligned eyes or eye tumors
- Your child has had an eye injury (problems resulting from childhood eye injuries may develop much later in life)
- If your child has any of these risk factors, take him or her to see an eye doctor.
- Children with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam at least once a year.
You May Be Required to Take Your Child to an Eye Doctor Under State Law
You may be required to take your child to an eye doctor under state law before he or she enters school.
Helpful Tips for Your Child’s Eye Doctor Visit
By following these tips, you can help make the most of your child’s trip to the eye doctor.
How Will an Eye Doctor Treat My Child’s Vision Problem?
Glasses compensate for refractive error, correct a focusing problem, or overcome an eye turn. Glasses can help your child to see clearly even though he or she may be farsighted, nearsighted or have astigmatism.
Eye drops or ointments are used to treat infections, glaucoma, and sometimes even strabismus or amblyopia.
Patching one eye is common in treating amblyopia.
Surgery may be needed to remove the lens if it has a cataract, reduce the pressure of glaucoma, halt vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy, or adjust an eye muscle if strabismus exists.
Eye exercises (orthoptics) can improve focusing and help the eyes move better and work together.
Finding an Eye Doctor
Talk to friends, family members and your child’s pediatrician about finding an eye doctor for your child. Professional associations can also help you find an eye doctor in your community.
The Pediatric ophthalmologists is a medical and surgical eye doctor who can deliver total eye care (such as vision services, contact lenses, eye examinations, medical eye care, and surgical eye care), and diagnose general diseases of the body, specifically in children.
Find a pediatric ophthalmologist: https://secure.aapos.org/aapos/Find-a-Doctor
The optometrist is a health care professional trained and state licensed to provide primary eye care services. These services include comprehensive eye health and vision examinations; diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases and vision disorders; the detection of general health problems; the prescribing of glasses, contact lenses, low vision rehabilitation, vision therapy, and medications; the performing of certain surgical procedures; and the counseling of patients regarding their surgical alternatives and vision needs as related to their occupations, hobbies, and lifestyle. Some optometrists are “pediatric optometrists” who specialize in working with young children.
Find an optometrist: https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/find-a-doctor?sso=y
Ophthalmologist: The ophthalmologist is a physician who is qualified by lengthy medical education, training, and experience to diagnose, treat and manage all eye and visual system problems. The ophthalmologist is the medically trained specialist who can deliver total eye care in people of any age.
Find an ophthalmologist: https://secure.aao.org/aao/find-ophthalmologist
Finding an Eye Doctor Fact Sheet
Finding an Eye Doctor (Spanish)
Your Child’s Glasses
Whether your child’s glasses are for close up or distance vision, it’s important that he or she wear them exactly as prescribed by the eye doctor. You may want to tell your child’s teachers or other adult guardians that your child needs glasses to see well and should be wearing them at school or away from home.
Eye Exams and Vision Screenings
Only an eye doctor can diagnose and treat a vision problem, but vision screenings that are a part of state systems for children’s vision and eye health can help find children who need a full eye exam.
The Prevent Blindness children’s vision screenings are an accurate, cost-effective way to find vision problems in children.
Prevent Blindness has the only national program that trains and certifies people around the country to conduct vision screenings that find vision problems in preschool and school-age children. Our screening procedures are recommended by many of the nation’s leading children’s eye care professionals and researchers.
The National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health at Prevent Blindness sets standards for vision screenings as part of comprehensive state systems for children’s vision and eye health.
A full eye examination by an eye doctor includes an evaluation of the refractive state, dilated fundus examination, visual acuity, ocular alignment, binocularity, and color vision testing, where appropriate.