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How Early and How Often Should My Child Have an Eye Exam?

In today’s blog I am going to discuss a couple of questions that I get asked pretty often.  Those two questions are.

  1. When should my child have their first eye exam?
  2. How often should my child have their eye’s examined?

This may sound early, but I recommend bringing your child in for their first exam at around 6 months old.  This visit is very important because we are making sure that your child doesn’t have any serious vision or eye health issues.  We don’t expect to get very much feedback from the child, but we can still learn a lot about how your child’s eyes are developing at this visit.  We are looking for major, hereditary eye problems like cataracts, glaucoma, crossed eyes, and many other serious conditions. If a child has any of these issues, the earlier we can detect and treat the better.  We are also making sure they don’t need glasses and ensuring that their eye muscles are starting to develop correctly. We generally don’t prescribe glasses this young unless a child has a pretty high prescription, but we always need to check.  After 6 months, your child’s vision starts to develop rapidly. So, this visit is very important to ensure there is nothing getting in the way of your child’s development during this critical time.

Assuming that everything checks out ok at the 6 month appointment, I recommend the next visit at around the age of 5.  At this visit most children are very interactive and some can even start reading the eye chart for us. We are checking all of the same things as we did at the 6 month appointment, but we can get a lot more information from the child at this point.  We still want to ensure your child doesn’t need glasses, and we are also checking to make sure their eye muscles are working correctly. Checking the eye muscles is very important, because this is the time your child is learning to read. We want to make sure their eye muscles are working properly so they can track across a page when reading, locate objects accurately, and have good depth perception.  If something is not working properly here, we need to correct it quickly so it doesn’t get in the way of learning or other activities such as sports.

If your child does need glasses at the 5 year appointment, I recommend yearly exams going forward.  If your child doesn’t need glasses then every two years going forward is ok, just be sure to observe your child’s vision and make sure you aren’t noticing any problems.  If everyone in your family wears glasses, it’s usually a good idea to have your child checked once a year, just to make sure.

The last thing I will mention here is that a screening at your child’s school or pediatricians office is not a substitute for an eye exam.  Reading a couple of lines from an eye chart doesn’t always mean they have good vision and healthy eyes. There are a lot of hidden eye problems that can be missed without having a comprehensive eye exam.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  If you have any questions feel free to email me at or call my office at 901-853-8180.

Dr. Walley