How old does my child need to be for her/his first eye exam? As a Children’s Eye Doctor, I get this question asked quite frequently. Typically, children go through vision screenings at school once a year. If they see their pediatrician they are also checked for general health of the eyes. All children have a developmental phase where the visual pathways in the brain itself become mature. The visual pathway starting with the eyes and all the way to the back of the brain (occipital lobe) need to be stimulated to force the system to develop to its full potential, which is achieving 20/20 vision in both eyes. Any eye condition that disrupts this developmental stage can cause full or partial vision loss, known as a lazy eye (Amblyopia). Most people think of a lazy eye as an eye that turns in or out, but in reality there are many conditions that can cause a lazy eye without any visible signs. The most common eye condition that I have seen in my practice is Refractive Amblyopia. This is a condition where one eye has a high enough prescription that the brain actually decides to shut that eye’s function down. The logic is very simple, when the brain is presented with two images one of which is extremely fuzzier that the other, it will decide automatically to shut down the poorer image. This helps alleviate confusion because the brain can not consolidate the two images to make a final and sharper version. This starts the downward spiral toward developing a lazy eye. During my years of practice I have seen many children with poor vision, most of these children had no vision complaints. Basically they don’t know what it means to have crisp and clear vision when they are slowly growing into poor eyesight. A child needs to have a thorough eye examination by the age of 5 and no later than 6. Any eye condition that can lead to a lazy eye needs to be detected at these ages, beyond the age of 8 or 9 it becomes very hard to reverse certain types of lazy eye. One must remember that a school screening is not a replacement for an actual eye exam. Genetics play a big role in all health conditions so if you have family members with lazy eyes or prescription eyewear you need to be more aggressive in getting your child’s eyes checked. Remember we only one pair of eyes, take good care of them.
Dr. David Gavami, Optometrist
Nuvue Eyecare 615-941-2020
6601 sugar valley dr. se 108
Nashville, Tn 37211
References for this article are available by request