When and how often?
Two of the most frequent questions I am asked are ‘When should I start having my child’s eyes examined?’ and ‘How often should my child’s eyes be checked?’
There are no prescribed limits to when your child should start having eye examinations. Obviously it is difficult to measure how well your child can see. Many optometrists now have computerised eye charts that give the child a choice of reading letters or of recognising shapes. With very young children, it is still possible to measure their visual acuity using special charts designed to be visually interesting to the very young. Perhaps the best answer is, if you think your child is not seeing well or they have an obvious squint, age is irrelevant and you should take them to your optometrist. If you simply want reassurance, and your child is not having any obvious visual problems, regular examinations starting from three years of age are recommended.
How often you should have your child’s eyes examined again depends on how well they are seeing and how well their eyes work together. Assuming everything is normal, an annual eye examination from age three would be appropriate. If your child has a problem with their vision, your optometrist may recommend more frequent examinations. This is more likely when your child is growing fast in early adolescence.
Recent research has found children are becoming myopic (short-sighted) at an earlier age. It used to start around age 12 to 13 and is now starting from age 10. Your optometrist will want to see your child every six months if they are showing signs of becoming short-sighted.
Myopia in childhood is not inevitable and can be controlled and you should seek advice on prevention from an optometrist specialising in myopia control.