Isn’t an infant too young to see an optometrist? Find out in today’s episode.
In this particular episode of Ask an Eye Doc, you will learn:
- When to schedule your child’s first eye exam
- What can be discovered during a dilated infant eye exam
This episode will make more sense if you’ve already listened to:
- episode 1 – What is astigmatism?
- episode 13 – What is nearsightedness (myopia)?
- episode 14 – What is farsightedness (hyperopia)?
- episode 32 – What is lazy eye? Part 1: amblyopia defined
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For you readers out there, here’s the answer in written form:
If you listen to this episode you’ll hear a snippet of my daughter, who is barely old enough to say “Ask an Eye Doc”, yet has already had her first eye exam.
You may have never considered when to send your infant to see an eye doctor, especially if you’re a new parent or you don’t wear glasses or contacts yourself. So how old do I recommend for your infant’s first eye exam?
The American Optometric Association recommends every healthy child have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age or sooner if the child is at risk.
I know what you’re thinking… What can an optometrist possibly tell during a 6-month-old’s first eye exam?!
What I can see at 6 months
When I see my 6-month-old patients, I can tell a lot, actually. One of the things I look for are any risk factors for amblyopia. In episode 32, we discussed how certain eye conditions or risk factors can lead to lazy eye, or permanently blurred vision. The sooner we discover a risk factor for amblyopia, the easier it will be to prevent long-term vision loss.
For example, with the infant sitting in your lap I can perform a few simple tests that will show me whether the child’s eye muscles are aligned properly. If an eye turn is present and nothing is done, amblyopia may develop.
By dilating your infant’s pupils, I can refract light off the back of the eye to determine what prescription he or she has. Depending on how strong the prescription is we may prescribe glasses to prevent amblyopia.
Once the infant is dilated, I can also perform a health examination to rule out any eye disease like congenital cataracts, which can cause severe amblyopia, or retinoblastoma, which is the most common form of eye cancer in children.
At risk infants
At risk children should have an exam before 6 months of age. Bring your baby in sooner than age 6 months if the mother had an infection during pregnancy or if he or she:
- has a noticeable eye turn
- was premature or was on oxygen at birth
- has a family history of any of conditions mentioned in this episode
- had a low apgar score at birth (ask your OB/GYN)
Now you know!
So now you know when to schedule your baby’s first visit with the eye doctor!
If your child is older than 6 months and hasn’t yet had a comprehensive eye exam, it’s never too late. Go ahead and contact your local optometrist to schedule an appointment. Make sure you let the staff know in advance the age of your baby, since some optometrists have a preference on the youngest patient they will see.