The Importance of Early Eye Exams for Kids

Since its back to school season, I thought it would be a good idea to write a little bit about children's vision. I've been seeing a lot of kids in the past couple of weeks, most of whom are bright, young, happy, and healthy. Its actually kind of a fun experience for me. I get to hear a lot of interesting stories about their summertime activities. I find myself living vicariously through my young friends since I've spent most of my summer locked up in my dark exam room!

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While most of the kids I see are returning for their annual check up, some are coming in to experience the fun and excitement of a Dr. Sian eye exam for the first time. Parents who are bringing their kids in for the first time will often ask me "When should my child have his/her first eye exam?". The answer is usually a bit surprising.

The American Optometric Association (AOA) and the Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) both agree that a child's first eye exam should be at 6 months of age. Of course, we don't expect the little munchkins to be able to read letters or even complain about blurry vision. But, it is vital at this age to make sure that the major structures of the eye are developing normally. One significant concern at this age is retinoblastoma, which is a tumor of the retina, the back surface of the eye. If caught early enough, it is possible to prevent the spread of the cancer to other parts of the body and, hopefully, save the affected eye.

A few years back there was a remarkable story of a person who detected a tumor in a baby's eye just by viewing photograph and noticing that one of the pupils seemed to have a white reflection. This simple sign probably saved the baby's life. 

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Here's the story: Daily Mail - Baby saved after friend spots eye cancer

Interestingly enough, one of the tests we do on children, called the Bruckner test, actually mimics this same reflex seen with camera flashes. Simply by watching how light reflects off of the the retina, we can determine the general health of the eye, the shape of the eye (astigmatism), and a potential prescription for glasses (if necessary).

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After 6 months, it is recommended that children have annual check ups to make sure everything is developing well.

In Canada, our health care system is based on prevention. In BC, Kids eye exams are free up to the age of 18. Regular check ups mean earlier detection and easier treatment.

Check Yearly, See Clearly!

If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to write to me or visit your friendly local optometrist :)

Also, take a peak at the following websites, they are very informative: