Within the first year of your child’s life, ensure that he or she undergoes the first eye exam under your family physician or pediatrician. After that, your doctor may decide, or you may desire, that your child’s eyes be examined by a specialist. Make, in that case, an appointment with a good pediatric ophthalmologist, who will probably then recommend further examinations, specifically when your child reaches three years of age and once by the age of five years or before he or she enters kindergarten. Subsequently you should take your child to routine comprehensive eye examinations annually or, at the latest, every two years. You may find that that your child’s school will arrange for screenings so that any serious issues with sight can be detected early. If your child fails any of these screening tests or if any unusual symptoms occur, immediately consult an ophthalmologist.
Preparing your child for an eye exam:
Put aside a decent amount of time. Sit down with your child and explain the process calmly and openly. Your child will during the eye exam be asked to look at and identify objects by the ophthalmologist. The nature of the objects will vary: they may be posters, letters, shapes created by shadows on the wall. It is crucial that you inform your child in advance of potentially disturbing parts of the process, such as the eye drops the ophthalmologist may apply to the child. Remember to add that there will be no pain, but the point of this exercise is so that your child can trust you and you can prepare him or her for the experience by giving her some knowledge and confidence.
What tests will your child undergo?
In the first year of the child’s life he or she will be tested for nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), astigmatism, eye movement facility, eye alignment, amblyopia, how each eye reacts to fluctuations in light and darkness, and any other eye problems. If problems are noticed during this exam and the exam itself is held under a family physician or a pediatric ophthalmologist, you will most probably have to visit a pediatric ophthalmologist, that is, a doctor specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions in children. Remember that the early diagnosis of a childhood eye disease is necessary for maximally effective treatment and, one hopes, recovery.
A physical examination of the eyes is routine in an exam for children aged between 3 and 5 years. There will also be a battery of eye chart test screenings, the comprehension of pictures and letters, and special games devised to test a child on his or her ability to perceive the form and details of any object, and also visual acuity. One common example is known as the ‘tumbling E game” or the Random E’s Visual Acuity Test. It enables the doctor to identify the strength of eyesight of children who cannot read yet. Your child will simply be asked to determine which directions the letter E points to. The letter E is four fingers imitating the letter E. Allen figure, which are standardized eye testing pictures will also be given to the child for identification, e.g. a hand, a house, a cat or a ship. It is in the child’s best interests that visual acuity, if good, is maintained throughout his or her life and, if poor, corrected at the onset.
One of the commonest causes of loss of unilateral vision in children and young adults is characterized by unequal vision between the two eyes. This is Amblyopia, colloquially known as lazy eye. This is a condition that the use of spectacles cannot combat. It is usually caused by ocular misalignment or haziness in line of vision as a sign of cataracts, or by unequal errors of refraction. If detected early, Amblyopia is reversible, countered when the better-seeing eye is patched or blurred by application of atropine.
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