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Eye and Vision Tests for Children and Teens

Topic Overview

All children

Use the guidelines below to schedule routine vision checks and eye exams with your pediatrician or family doctor.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Ophthalmologists (AAO) recommend that all children have an eye exam during the newborn period and again at all routine well-child visits.1

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening (tests) to detect lazy eye (amblyopia), misaligned eyes (strabismus), and defects in visual acuity in children between the ages of 3 and 5 years.2

The AAP recommends that vision screening start around age 3 and occur each year at ages 4, 5, and 6. After that, screening should occur at ages 8, 10, 12, 15, and 18.3

The AAO recommends that vision screening start around age 3 and occur each year at ages 4 and 5. After age 5, the AAO recommends screening every 1 to 2 years.4

Eye exams by a specialist (an ophthalmologist or optometrist) are recommended if a child of any age has:

  • A family history of eye problems, especially genetic eye diseases.
  • Signs of misaligned eyes, lazy eye, or nearsightedness.
  • A red, swollen, or cloudy eye.

Children who have refractive errors or have a disease that affects the eyes

Children and teens with a disease that affects the eyes can follow the eye exam and vision testing schedule for all children. It's best that they see an eye doctor (specialist) for their eye care.

At least once a year, most eye doctors want to check the vision of children and teens that have refractive errors that impact their sight. If nearsightedness is severe or quickly gets worse in a child, he or she will need exams more often.

References

Citations

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics, et al. (2003, reaffirmed 2007). Policy statement: Eye examination in infants, children, and young adults by pediatricians. Pediatrics, 111(4): 902–907.
  2. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2011). Vision screening for children 1 to 5 years of age: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Available online: http://www.pediatrics.org/cgi/doi/10.1542/peds.2010-3177.
  3. American Academy of Pediatrics (2008). Recommendations for preventive pediatric health care. In Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents, 3rd ed., p. 591. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics. Also available online: http://brightfutures.aap.org/pdfs/Guidelines_PDF/20-Appendices_PeriodicitySchedule.pdf.
  4. American Academy of Ophthalmology Pediatric Ophthalmology/Strabismus Panel (2012). Pediatric eye evaluations. (Preferred Practice Pattern). San Francisco: American Academy of Ophthalmology. Also available online:

Other Works Consulted

  • American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Ophthalmology, et al. (2006). Screening examination of premature infants for retinopathy of prematurity. Pediatrics, 117(2): 572–576. [Errata in Pediatrics, 117(4): 1468 and Pediatrics, 118(3): 1324.]

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
Last Revised March 8, 2013

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