Sharon Enemuoh: Why Routine Eye Exams Are Crucial at Any Stage in Life

Regular eye exams are important for detecting vision problems and eye diseases early. Unfortunately, many people take these exams for granted. When asked about their eye health, most people simply respond with “good” until they experience an avoidable incident. Just like with any medical condition, early detection can prevent long-term vision problems and promote overall development. Eye exams are beneficial for individuals of all ages, from birth through adulthood, and they involve specific tests that are important for obtaining good results.

Newborn (0-3 months)

Yes, a newborn should have their first eye test at birth before the baby is taken home by the parents. A Red Reflex Test is performed and it checks for abnormalities such as cataracts, glaucoma, and retinoblastoma, these are some congenital conditions that can be found in babies. A normal symmetrical red reflex is a sign of healthy eyes, any asymmetry or absence of the reflex warrants further investigation. This can be performed by the paediatrician or optometrist before discharge from the hospital.

Infant (3-6 months)

Between 3-6 months, a baby should have the next eye check performed by the optometrist. Pupillary Light Reflex and Fixation Behavior are evaluated to note the ability to track objects and respond to light expected at this age. The test enables early detection of strabismus or amblyopia which can prevent vision problems. Pupils should constrict equally in response to light. The infant should be able to fixate on and follow a moving object by around 3-4 months of age. When there is a lack of fixation or inability to follow an object, that is a red flag.

6-12 month

In addition to the former tests, a positive Corneal Light Reflex Test (Hirschberg Test) and Cover Test are the markers for healthy eyes at this age. These tests identify misalignment of the eyes (strabismus), and early treatment is critical to prevent amblyopia (lazy eye). The light reflection should be centered on both corneas while in the cover test, the covered eye should not move, indicating proper alignment.

Toddlers (1-3 years)

At this age, children are visually curious and can be easily engaged. An optometrist needs to conduct visual acuity tests using picture charts and an ocular health examination to assess their vision and eye health. This can help detect any refractive errors or other eye conditions. Proper vision is crucial for their development, and their visual acuity should be within the normal range for their age. A complete ocular health examination ensures that there are no underlying conditions.

Preschool (3-5 years)

Visual Acuity tests (using picture or letter charts), stereopsis tests, and Color Vision tests must be performed as these detect refractive errors, depth perception issues, and colour blindness. Early intervention can improve learning and development, at this age, visual acuity should be 20/40 or better in each eye with stereopsis and colour vision expected to be normal.

School Age (6-12 years)

At this age, the Visual Acuity Test (Snellen chart) and Comprehensive Eye Examination should become an annual event. Regular vision screening is crucial as children grow and their visual demands increase, identifying and correcting vision problems can enhance academic performance. With visual acuity, it should be 20/20 or better, and a comprehensive exam ensures all aspects of eye health are monitored.

Teenagers (13-18 years)

Visual Acuity Tests, Comprehensive Eye Examinations, and Screening for Eye Health Issues Related to Growth (e.g., myopia progression) are vital as adolescents may experience changes in vision due to growth. Annual eye exams can detect conditions like myopia (nearsightedness) that often progress during these years. The benchmark for visual acuity should be 20/20 or better. Monitoring for changes in refractive errors and overall eye health is essential.

Adults (19-60 years)

Annual Comprehensive Eye Examination (including visual acuity, refraction, intraocular pressure measurement, and dilated eye exam) becomes vital because, as we grow older, eye conditions like glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration become prevalent, and early detection is important. Visual acuity should be 20/20 or corrected to 20/20. Intraocular pressure should be within the normal range (10-21 mmHg), and the eye should be free from signs of disease.

Seniors (60+ years)

These age groups are mostly at higher risk of having certain eye conditions that can lead to vision loss therefore, a Comprehensive Eye Examination is most vital comprising tests for cataracts, macula degeneration, and glaucoma. Regular exams are equally necessary to manage these conditions when diagnosed.

It’s not accurate to claim “I have good vision” if you’ve never had an eye exam. Often, people with preventable eye conditions only seek care when the problems have progressed significantly, as they miss important milestones for eye checks. Regular eye examinations specific to different age groups are crucial for preserving eye health and identifying vision issues early. These tests provide essential information that can prevent vision loss and support overall development. It’s important to make an annual visit to your optometrist for an eye examination.

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