Little girl in glasses looking into the camera

August 10, 2016

Get Eye-Ready for Back-to-School

The strong connection between vision and learning is no secret. Increased screen time and daily eye stresses only add to the importance of scheduling yearly comprehensive eye exams for our children. As the new school year is soon here, it's the perfect time to get in and get those eyes checked.

Here's a little of what your family eye doctor will look for during your child's eye exam.

First, your child's visual acuity will be checked. This includes using picture charts, letter games and letter recognition to test this acuity. Eye alignment will also be tested to ensure that there is a correct muscle balance within the eye movement. The doctor will use light reflexes or alternately covering each eye to make sure that they do not move from the straight-ahead position. Binocular vision testing will then ensure that the eyes are not only aligned correctly, but that the brain is using them together as well.

Refraction testing will also be performed. You are likely familiar with the terms nearsighted and farsighted. Refraction is used to gauge this 'power' of the eye.

In young children, the focusing power of the eye must be eliminated for an accurate measurement. During refraction testing, drops in the eye are used to dilate the pupil and eliminate the focus mechanism. Refraction testing can also determine if your child has astigmatism, a treatable condition where the eye does not focus light evenly onto the retina.

Finally, there is a fundus examination. During this examination, a special light is used to look into the back of your child's eye. A look into this area where blood vessels and portions of the brain can be seen can be highly valuable in detecting a number of disorders.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus recommend that children should have their eyes examined by the pediatric or family doctor at birth and at all regular check-ups before school. At the age of 3 to 4, the exams should include vision testing using acuity charts to help identify childhood eye disorders.

Most childhood eye problems can be corrected if detected early. Call the doctor if your child exhibits any of warning signs such as lack of eye fixation, jerking eye movements, white or irregular pupils, swelling around the eyelids, excess tearing, drooping lid, squinting behavior or frequent blinking. An appointment with a pediatric ophthalmologist may be suggested for additional testing and counsel.

Wolfe Eye Clinic provides pediatric ophthalmology care in our Des Moines and Marshalltown locations.