When to take your child to their first eye exam
Children generally have their first eye exam between three and five years old, but if your child is born premature, they to have their eyes examined much earlier than that.
Orthoptist Kailee Algee says premature babies have a one in four chance of having vision problems, but regular exams could catch and treat vision issues early.
“Before they're the age where they can tell us letters or match some shapes, what we do is we look at the light reflexes of the eyes, we look to see that the eyes are nice and straight, and looking at whether or not they're working together,” says Algee.
Algee says they then put drops in to dilate the child’s eyes.
“They make the black part of his eyes nice and big so the doctor can have a nice big window to look through and make sure the back of the eye looks nice and healthy,” says Algee.
Pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Mishari Dahrab says children are born nearly blind, and they learn to see as they grow.
“They could require glasses, which is what we call refractive errors. They could have misalignment of the eye, one eye turns in a bit or turns out, and a combination of these could cause amblyopia, or a lazy eye,” he says.
Dr. Dahrab says catching flaws is key.
“If we were to identify something that is correctable, intervening early would decrease the likelihood that that persists it them,” says Dr. Dahrab. “After the age of eight or nine, it's much harder to correct what we call amblyopia or lazy eye.”
Some things to watch for include eye crossing, eye rubbing, holding things very close to the face to see them, or not noticing something of interest when it's far away.
Dr. Dharab says unmatching eyes in photographs could be an indication of something sinister.
“If you had a consistent abnormal reflex, or the both eyes didn't look the same … that is a sign of something that could be pretty serious in a child's eye,” he says.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Maria Panopalis.