For many parents, bringing your child to see the optometrist or any other healthcare provider for the first time can be a cause of considerable stress. You may worry about how your child will react to a new stranger, especially one who is poking at their eyes with foreign objects.
You may be afraid that your child will be afraid of the eye exam or will not want to participate in the examination. Though all of these fears are totally valid, pediatric eye care specialists will know exactly how to work with your child to make sure they feel safe while they are getting their eyes examined.
A doctor or optometrist will examine your child’s eyes slightly differently from how they would examine the eyes of an adult. If you have ever wondered how a pediatric eye care optometrist examines children’s eyes, here are some of the most common methods that are used.
Symbol Charts and Vision Assessment
When assessing eye health in adults, it is common to use a Snellen chart that contains increasingly small letters. These charts are often used with older children and adolescents as well. However, what about eye examinations on children that are too young to know all of the letters of the alphabet reliably?
In these young children, special symbol charts are used to help the ophthalmologist get a better sense of your child’s visual acuity. Instead of reading off letters from a chart, your child will be asked to identify more child-friendly symbols, such as an apple, a house, or a circle.
In eye exams for children who will require eyeglasses, pediatric eye care specialists must use a special tool to shine a light on the part of the back of your child’s eye, called the retina.
Visualizing the retina using this type of light allows the optometrist to view the retina fully and the spread of light or refraction of the retina, which is an essential part of determining your child’s eyeglasses prescription.
Eye Exams in Infants
For children under one year, eye exams are typically abbreviated and involve different tests. This is because infants are less able to follow and understand directions, yet still may suffer from eye problems requiring early intervention.
One of the most common eye tests for infants is simply testing for the responsiveness of the pupils to light by shining a penlight into their eyes briefly. If the pupils are round, reactive to light, and able to track an object as it moves back and forth, this is considered to be a normal and reassuring finding. By the time an infant is three months old, it is normal that their eyes are able to follow as they track an object.