At what age should I take my child to the eye doctor?

Children's eye exam

Deciding when to take your child to the eye doctor is a significant decision. The good news is that you don’t have to make it alone! Keep reading to learn more about pediatric eye exams and when your child should get one.


Pediatric Eye Exams

You may be wondering, what does a pediatric eye exam entail?

A child's eye exam is not nearly as extensive as what you might be used to. Adults and older children will receive a more thorough and detailed check since there are more things to look for as you get older.

However, the eye doctor still needs to perform various tests to ensure your child does not have anything going on that could interfere with their visual development. They will check the health of their eyes and confirm that there is nothing that needs to be immediately addressed.

Your doctor will likely complete a photo screening test. A special camera will take images of your child's eyes and allow them to identify problems that could lead to vision issues down the road. They will also visually inspect their eyes to check for healthy movement and alignment.

If your child was born prematurely, has a family history of childhood eye disease, or is showing symptoms of a problem, your doctor might recommend additional testing.

As soon as your child is old enough to use the eye chart, your doctor will begin testing them with it. If they struggle to read the letters at a distance, they may need glasses or some other form of vision correction.

When Should a Child Have Their First Eye Exam?

Perhaps the most common question associated with children’s eye health is when it is time to take them to see an optometrist.

You know you need to take them to a pediatrician regularly, and they are seen by a doctor the moment that they are born. Similarly, since they don't have any teeth yet, you know that a dentist visit is not yet necessary. But what about the eye doctor?  

Research conducted by the American Public Health Association found that almost 10% of preschool children have a vision disorder. This can make learning difficult, and there aren’t always clear signs that your child is struggling with their vision.

Learning at a young age is mostly visual, and it is essential to make sure that your child is not struggling with blurry vision or difficulty using both eyes together.

Some kids may even be born with incomplete visual development, or a lazy eye, that can cause permanent damage if not detected and treated as soon as possible.

This is why ensuring that they have routine eye exams is so essential!  

Per the American Optometric Association - or AOA - your child should have their first comprehensive, baseline exam between six months and 12 months of age. Doing so will allow your doctor to identify any issues early on and recommend corrective treatment.

If your child has some vision difficulties in that initial exam, the eye doctor will recommend a specific examination and treatment schedule for their needs.

If there are no significant findings in that first eye exam, the AOA recommends at least one other recheck between the age of 3 and 5. The purpose of this recheck is to confirm that there are no existing conditions that could have effects on their eyesight in the long term.

Your child should be having annual eye exams by the time they reach the first grade. These exams will monitor their vision and ensure that you maintain the health of their eyes.