Your Baby’s Vision
Babies learn to see over a period of time, much like they learn to walk and talk. They are not born with all the visual abilities they need in life. The ability to focus their eyes, move them accurately, and use them together as a team must be learned. They also need to learn how to use the visual information the eyes send to their brain in order to understand the world around them and interact with it appropriately.
From birth, babies begin exploring the wonders in the world with their eyes. Even before they learn to reach and grab with their hands or crawl and sit-up, their eyes are providing information and stimulation important for their development.
Healthy eyes and good vision play a critical role in how infants and children learn to see. Eye and vision problems in infants can cause developmental delays. It is important to detect any problems early to ensure babies have the opportunity to develop the visual abilities they need to grow and learn.
Parents play an important role in helping to assure their child’s eyes and vision can develop properly.
Steps that any parent should take include:
- Watching for signs of eye and vision problems.
- Seeking professional eye care starting with the first comprehensive vision assessment at about 6 months of age.
- Helping their child develop his or her vision by engaging in age-appropriate activities.
The presence of eye and vision problems in infants is rare. Most babies begin life with healthy eyes and start to develop the visual abilities they will need throughout life without difficulty. But occasionally, eye health and vision problems can develop. Parents need to look for the following signs that may be indications of eye and vision problems:
- Excessive tearing – this may indicate blocked tear ducts
- Red or encrusted eye lids – this could be a sign of an eye infection
- Constant eye turning – this may signal a problem with eye muscle control
- Extreme sensitivity to light – this may indicate an elevated pressure in the eye
Appearance of a white pupil – this may indicate the presence of an eye cancer
Regular eye exams are vital for children, not only for vision health, but to ensure the quality of visual processing skills critical to their learning in school. Since most children do not understand what “normal” vision is, regular examinations make it far more likely that any issues can be detected and treated before they have a negative impact on learning, development, or quality of life.
Children’s exams are performed much like an adult exam. Dilation drops are usually needed to completely access the visual system, so it is often best to have this conversation with your child prior to the exam. In order to lessen the anxiety of the drops, we have the child look up in the air, with the eyes closed, and place the drops on the eyelash line. The child is than instructed to gradually blink the drops in. The dilation will cause blurry vision, especially at near, and light sensitivity when outside. Please consider this when scheduling your child’s appointment.
American Optometric Association’s Recommended Examination Frequency for the Pediatric Patient
Patient age Asymptomatic / Risk Free At Risk
|Birth to 24 Months||At 6 months of age||By 6 months of age or as recommended|
|2 to 5 years||At 3 years of age||At 3 years of age or as recommended|
|6 to 18 years||Before first grade and every two years thereafter||Annually or as recommended|
Children considered to be at risk for the development of eye and vision problems may need additional testing or more frequent re-evaluation. Factors placing an infant, toddler, or child at significant risk for visual impairment include:
- Prematurity, low birth weight, oxygen at birth, grade III or IV intraventricular hemorrhage
- Family history of retinoblastoma, congenital cataracts, or metabolic or genetic disease
- Infection of mother during pregnancy (e.g., rubella, toxoplasmosis, venereal disease, herpes, cytomegalovirus, or AIDS)
- Difficult or assisted labor, which may be associated with fetal distress or low Apgar scores
- High refractive error
- Known or suspected central nervous system dysfunction evidenced by developmental delay, cerebral palsy, dysmorphic features, seizures, or hydrocephalus
InfantSEE is the American Optometric Association’s public health program designed to ensure that eye and vision care becomes an integral part of infant wellness care to improve a child’s quality of life. Under this program, participating optometrists provide a comprehensive infant eye assessment between 6 and 12 months of age as a no-cost public service. Dr. Lyons has been an InfantSEE provider since the launch of the program in 2005.
Focal Pointe provides a free exam for infants between ages 6 and 12 months to screen for major conditions. We strongly recommend that you take advantage of this free service even if your child has no apparent eye or vision problems.
During this examination, Dr. Lyons will test for:
- Excessive or unequal amounts of nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism
- Eye movement ability
- Eye health problems
It is important to identify children who have these issues at this young age. Vision development and eye health problems are easier to correct if treatment begins early.
To learn more about InfantSee, go to www.InfantSEE.org