Vision screening is simply not enough for your child. A comprehensive eye exam will not only test your child’s ability to read the eye chart, but it will look at the health of your child’s eyes as well as how well the two eyes work together as a team. The eyes are a complex system, closely integrated with the brain, thus a major contributor to how we see and translate the world around us.
If our two eyes are not working well together, double vision, eye strain, headaches, and/ or general avoidance of focused near tasks such as reading may occur. Children do not always realize that these symptoms are not normal, as they may be experiencing them on such a frequent basis that they do not appreciate them as abnormal.
Reading the eye chart or taking a screening test with a machine at the pediatrician does not fully evaluate the complete eye system. Rather, it is screening for refractive error (nearsightedness or farsightedness) with little regard for the complex visual pathway connecting the eyes and the brain, which is vital to interpreting and processing visual information.
Annual comprehensive eye exams are recommended for all school-age children, even if your child does not have any eye complaints.
The following is a guideline for having your child receive a comprehensive eye exam:
Birth to 2 years: Once at 6 to 12 months of age
3 through 5 years: At least once between 3 and 5 years of age
6 through 18 years: Before kindergarten or first grade and annually thereafter
Of course, if a child is complaining of any eye discomfort or change in their vision, they should be seen sooner.