At what age should your child have their first visit to the optometrist?  Between six and nine months of age.

It's important to be concerned about you baby’s eye health because although babies cannot complain that they do not see well, they too can have vision problems. The same is true for toddlers. Here is some useful information about the most common vision problems detected in children.

An eye exam for your child

At birth, a baby can see at a distance of about 20 cm. and during the first year of life, their vision improves significantly. Their ability to see farther and to see details increases as the months go by. Eye coordination and three-dimensional vision are established at six months, and reach their full capacity by the age of eight.

Approximately 10% of preschoolers and 20% of elementary school children have a defect in vision development or poor eye coordination. These defects can interfere with learning, reading and everyday activities. Vision and eye coordination problems can be treated more effectively when detected early. An initial examination with your trusted optometrist is recommended at about six months of age and if all goes well, the next exams should be at three and five years respectively and yearly thereafter.

Amblyopia or lazy eye

Amblyopia, also known as "lazy eye", affects 4% of children under the age of eight. This problem is often related to a significant vision defect in one eye that has been present since birth. A child with amblyopia may not complain as they can still see well because the other eye is often well developed.

The earlier amblyopia is detected, the more likely it is that treatment will be effective. Ideally, treatment should be completed by the age of eight. Often, the child will have to wear a temporary eye patch for a few hours a day on the good eye so that the other eye can develop.

Strabismus

Strabismus is an eye alignment problem that can occur because of a muscle defect or because one eye is straining too hard to see clearly. Strabismus affects 2% to 5% of children and is a cause of amblyopia (lazy eye). Before the age of six months, eye coordination is still developing and it is normal for a baby to squint occasionally. After the age of six months, you should see a doctor if your baby's eye coordination is not stable or if they have a crooked eye at any time. The problem can be corrected with exercises, glasses or surgery, depending on the case. And it's best to act quickly, because the vision in the squinting eye can become less sharp.

 

Hyperopia

Children are usually born with farsightedness and remain so until they are eight or ten years old. In the farsighted eye, the image forms behind the retina instead of on it. In most cases, the lens of the eye (crystalline lens) automatically expands to put the image back in the right place, allowing you to see a clear image.

However, in the case of severe hyperopia, this compensation cannot be completely achieved and results in blurred vision, especially for objects that are close together. Symptoms such as headaches and fatigue can occur if an object is stared at for a long time.

If farsightedness causes squinting, or in cases of severe farsightedness, prescription glasses usually solve the problem. Farsightedness usually decreases with as the child grows but some children will need to wear glasses for the rest of their lives. Contact lenses can also be worn as of eight years old.

Astigmatism

This condition is caused by an eye whose surface is shaped more like a football than a soccer ball. Between 2% and 5% of children have astigmatism.

A child with astigmatism sees blurred and distorted whether near or far. He or she tends to draw closer to read and draws ill-proportioned or crooked shapes. They may also often feel tired or have headaches if they stare for long periods of time.

Astigmatism cannot be compensated for naturally and does not change over the years or as the eye grows. It is often accompanied by nearsightedness or farsightedness, which increase or decrease visual difficulties.

Astigmatism can be corrected with glasses or, from the age of eight, with contact lenses. It is important to consult an optometrist as soon as symptoms appear.

Myopia

Myopia is a problem that makes it difficult to see distant objects. It affects only 1% to 2% of children under the age of five in Canada. Myopia usually appears in adolescence, but it is developing earlier and earlier in young people.

To avoid serious long-term eye problems, it is important to monitor the development of myopia, especially in children who become nearsighted before the age of ten and in those who have a parent who is severely nearsighted. Encourage your children to play outside, as this gets them used to looking into the distance and seeing objects at different distances.