Eye exams

Eye exams

Eye exams are important for measuring your child's overall growth. Because eye problems usually don't hurt, and aren't always obvious, you may not know if your child has a problem. The most common vision disorders among children are:

  • amblyopia ("lazy eye"): This occurs when one eye does not develop sight in a normal way. Amblyopia is the term used when the vision in one of the eyes is reduced because the eye and the brain are not working together properly to produce vision. The eye itself looks normal, but it is not being used normally because the brain is favoring the other eye.
  • strabismus (eyes misaligned): This occurs with an imbalance in eye muscles. Each eye sends a different image to the brain. The brain blocks out the image from the weaker, misaligned eye. Strabismus often runs in families.
  • refractive errors (poor vision that can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses): In a normal eye, the cornea and lens refract or bend light rays onto the retina. This forms an image that is transmitted to the brain by the optic nerve. Refractive error results when:
    • eyes are too long (myopia or nearsightedness)
    • eyes are too short (hyperopia or farsightedness)
    • the curvature of the cornea is uneven (astigmatism)

Glasses and contact lenses correct for refractive error by offsetting the error.

  • Your child's vision will develop until age 8 or 9.
  • Amblyopia is the most common cause of visual problems in children.

When to get eye exams

Your child's pediatrician or family practice provider will check your child's eyes at each well check. If you have concerns about your child's eyes, talk with your health care provider. They can refer you to an eye specialist if needed.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5, sixth edition, ped-ah-91554
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 11/16/2022