1) When should I first have my child’s eyes examined, and is the school eye check enough to ensure that my child’s eyes are ok?
ANSWER: I always tell parents that there is really no specific time to start children’s eye exams, and that I will see them at ANY age if the parent notices anything suspicious, such as:
-red or swollen eyes or eyelids,
-an eye that turns inward or outward
-excessive eye rubbing or squinting
-discharge from the eye
Fortunately, eye problems in infants and toddlers and pre-schoolers are not that common, so I highly suggest that the child’s first eye exam (barring any of the above-mentioned conditions) be at around age 5, and certainly no later than age 7, when reading and writing skills come into play.
As to the second part of the question concerning school eye screenings, there is really no comparison to a full eye examination. A vision evaluation in my office always includes tests for eye alignment, color vision perception, depth perception, eye movement control, precise visual acuity at both distance
and reading, and eye health assessment. Thorough consultation with the parent concerning recommendations and treatment protocols is also a vital part of the examination.
The schools certainly do not have the time or professional expertise to do all of these testing protocols, so you should make sure that your child receives a professional eye exam no later than age 7.
2. Are contact lenses safe, and at what age should I consider contact lenses as an option for my child?
ANSWER: Today’s contact lens technology indeed insures that properly fitted contact lenses are a safe option for vision correction. Professional contact lens fitting
– complete eye-health evaluation
– complete medical and ocular history
– thorough refraction of the eyes
– precise measurement of the eye’s curvature
– trial in-office fitting to show the patient the comfort and vision to be expected
To be more specific, you should be professionally fitted and monitored by an experienced practitioner who is willing to spent the necessary amount of time with you. It is your eye doctor’s clinical skills that will assure you that your eye health is not compromised, and the contact lenses are providing maximum visual acuity without any undo discomfort. I personally prefer to wait until the child (patient) is in middle school before considering contact lenses (at least age 12).
It is not too early to be thinking about preparation for back to school time. Make sure to include your child’s vision examination as part of the process.