As your child approaches Kindergarten you wonder if they should have a comprehensive eye examination by an eye care provider. The answer is no.
Your child’s pediatrician will perform age-appropriate vision screening examinations. If your child fails the screening test, they will be referred to an eye doctor with appropriate training in the examination of young children. In my experience, about 80% of children who fail their first vision screen have a normal examination in my office. About 10% of them need a repeat examination in 6 to 12 months and about 10% need glasses or have a more serious problem.
Pediatric ophthalmologists can determine whether your child needs glasses even if the child will not cooperate for vision testing. In fact, we can determine if an infant needs glasses. We do not use the phoropter (the “which is better, 1 or 2” machine) but use other specialized techniques instead. If your child is referred for a comprehensive eye examination, do not be concerned if s/he does not know the alphabet or is shy and won’t talk to the doctor. It is very likely that your child’s pupils will be dilated, thus you should plan for about 2 hours in the office and schedule the examination for a “good mood” time of day when you do not have time pressure.
Annual routine eye examinations are also not useful if the child has no complaints and passes their vision screening tests. In fact, a routine annual examination is on the list of five Choosing Wisely items from the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus – as not recommended.