Children are different than adults in that a child’s brain develops more rapidly. Any problems a child may experience with his or her vision may disrupt the development of visual pathways to the brain. A critical stage of visual development occurs between birth and age 3 to 4 months, during which time the brain must receive clear visual messages from both eyes. Early detection and treatment can prevent loss of vision, learning difficulties and delayed development.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have recommended the following screening stages:
- Newborn: All newborns are examined in the nursery for eye infections, abnormal light reflexes and other eye disorders, such as cataracts.
- 6 months: Visual screening of infants should be performed during the well-baby visits; particularly checking for how the eyes work together.
- 3 to 4 years: Formal visual acuity tests and the complete eye examination should be performed.
- 5 years and older: Annual visual screening tests by the pediatricians and eye examinations as necessary.
Children often cannot tell you when they are having problems with their vision. Visual screening helps to identify those children who may need further examinations and testing. The earlier the detection of vision problems, the more successful the treatment. Always discuss eye examinations and visual screening with your child’s doctor.