When does a child need an eye exam?
A frequent concern among parents is when to perform an eyes examination to their children.
Most of parents start thinking about this when their kids are old enough to begin school and even when that's rationale, there are several eye conditions requiring attention much before, thus, when is the proper time?
Well, the answer is easy, from the first day of life! But such eye exam must not be performed by an ophthalmologist, but the pediatrician.
A baby's physical examination must include a detailed inspection of every organ and part of the body, including eyes. During this general eye exam the pediatrician, general practitioner or family doctor will focus on the baby's eyes configuration, alignment and response to light and other stimuli.
It's also important to verify if the baby looks towards an auditory stimulus as well attention towards a colorful, interesting object.
During this exam is hard to know if the baby will need to use glasses, but this is not important yet. At this moment (babies beyond two years of life), the most important thing is to verify normal eyes development as well visual perception.
On the other hand the development of certain eyes tumors (i.e. retinoblastoma) which are commonly seen during childhood, must be ruled out.
If everything goes well, periodical evaluation by the pediatrician is enough until the baby get old enough to begin school; however if during one of these evaluations there is any sign indicating that something goes wrong, the patient must be evaluated by an ophthalmologist as soon as possible to rule out specific eyes conditions.
An exception to the above rule is the case of preterm babies as well those born from mothers with specific conditions such as rubella.
On the first case, prematurity retinopathy must be ruled out while in the second, eyes complications such as congenital blindness must be evaluated since rubella is commonly associated with ocular complications and blindness.
For all special cases, parents will receive advice even before birth, so once the baby arrives they must be ready to find ophthalmological counseling as soon as possible.
On these cases the ophthalmologist will set the frequency of evaluations, if any, as well the need of special tests which are commonly performed by sub-specialists such as pediatric ophthalmologists.