Paediatric Eye Exams – Too Important to Overlook

We do not bother taking our children for eye exams until they complain of vision problems. Comprehensive eye exams are a necessity and should be started from an early age.

By Suja Karthik  • 7 min read

Paediatric Eye Exams – Too Important to Overlook

Little Madhavi was a bright and bubbly child who loved exploring and reading books. Things were sailing smoothly until she was put to preschool. She was anxious to go to school and showed disinterest in writing. In one of the parental meets, her teacher advised Madhavi’s mother to get her daughter’s vision checked. Her mom was perplexed since her daughter’s vision test result was ‘normal’ during the routine check-up. Upon insistence, when Madhavi’s eyes were examined, she was diagnosed with myopia (nearsightedness), which was treated with eyeglasses.

About 41% of children in India have vision problems that go unnoticed. A child’s primary learning comes through vision. Yet, a comprehensive eye exam is one of the commonly ignored checkups among children. While most parents assume that regular eye-screen check-ups done at schools and hospitals are sufficient to detect vision problems, doctors recommend an extensive annual eye exam for children.

“Having good vision is important for a child’s development. It gives them the confidence to perform well in studies and extra-curricular activities. I have seen children who go into a shell due to poor vision, and they aren’t able to explain their problems. Many parents dislike making their children wear glasses so young. They don’t realise that by doing so they’re depriving their child of a normal life,” says Dr. Ajanta Chakravarty, HOD Manipal Eye Care, Bangalore.

Regular eye exams can nip a vision problem in the bud before the problem casts its adverse negative effects. Watch out for signs such as squinting, rubbing of the eyes, holding objects closer to the eye, redness in eyes, tilting the head to see objects or excessive water discharge from the eyes.

What does an eye exam detect?

“Vision problems if not rectified in time, may cause permanent visual handicap. Timely diagnosis is important so that doctors get enough time to treat the condition,” suggests Dr. Chakravarty. 

An eye exam will check the reaction of the eye to light and darkness, eye movement, refractive errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and other eye conditions, like:

Strabismus: Strabismus aka ‘turned/crossed eyes’ is a condition when both eyes fail to work together as a team. It disrupts vision, and if left untreated, leads to severe amblyopia.

Amblyopia: Also called as the ‘lazy eye’, amblyopia is a condition where one of the eyes does not achieve its full visual capacity. Non-treatment could lead to permanent visual defect.

Conjunctivitis: Known as the Pink eye, this condition is the inflammation of the white area of the eye and inner eyelids. It can cause due to bacterial/viral infection(s) or allergy to certain medications. Bacterial conjunctivitis can sometimes lead to permanent vision loss.

Cataract: Genetic condition, eye injury or infections can cause childhood cataracts, which makes the vision cloudy.

Glaucoma: This is a disorder that damages the optic nerve that can result in vision loss. There are no apparent signs for this disorder until the late stages of the disorder.

Vision Screening Vs. Eye Exams

  • Screenings are brief tests designed to catch problems with obvious symptoms. On the other hand, eye exams are a complete assessment of eye-health to diagnose disorders and identify the proper course of treatment.
  • A paediatric ophthalmologist performs the exam, which is more effective to identify problems that eye screenings don’t catch.

Recommended Eye Exam Schedule

Birth to 24 months

By six months

Preschoolers – 2 to 5 years

By the age of three and before stepping to school

School age – 6 to 18 years

Before first grade and annual exams thereafter 

You will help your child achieve their fullest potential with good eye-health. Be sure to take him/her for regular eye exams!

The author is a freelance writer from Bangalore. 

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