When is an Eye Exam Needed?

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It is often assumed if a child passes a school vision screening that he or she is exempt from vision-related problems. However, as vision screenings mainly test for distance visual acuity, the complex visual skills needed for successful reading and learning are not included. Therefore, a child who can see 20/20 may still have a vision-related problem.

Even if a child passes a vision screening, he or she should receive a comprehensive eye examination if:

  • There is a demonstration of the signs or symptoms of a vision problem listed in the Common Vision and Eye Problems in Children section.
  • He or she is not achieving his or her potential in school and extracurricular activities.
  • He or she expends excessive time and effort to accomplish minor tasks.

Vision changes can occur and go unnoticed by a child, parent or teacher. Therefore, it is important for a child to receive a comprehensive eye examination at least once every 2 years, more frequently if specific problems or risk factors exist, or if recommended by an eye doctor. The earlier a vision problem is detected, the more likely corrective action will be successful. When needed, the doctor can prescribe treatment including eyeglasses, contact lenses or vision therapy to correct any vision problems.

Children should have a comprehensive eye examination before starting school so an eye doctor can determine if a child’s vision system is prepared for reading, writing and other close work. The demands of schoolwork can put stress on a child’s visual system; resulting in the development of eye problems the child may not have had before. While toddlers use their eyes mostly for looking at a distance, school requires children's eyes to focus on close, small work for hours every day. Children often don’t realize the strain their eyes are under, making it difficult to recognize and seek help for vision concerns. Because their vision is "normal" to them, they think everyone sees the way they do.