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Glasses Can Help Even Young Children

When should a child get their first pair of glasses? The answer may be as young as a few months of age.

Healthcare providers who specialize in children's eye care say kids usually become nearsighted or farsighted between ages 6 and 12. Farsightedness may be diagnosed even earlier, sometimes in infancy. Even infants can wear glasses if they need help to see well. Experts agree that all children should have an eye screening before they enter school. In addition, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the American Optometric Association (AOA) also advise that all infants, preschoolers, and school-age children be screened for vision problems. An ophthalmologist or optometrist should check any child who doesn’t pass one of the screening tests below.

Screening guide

The AAO and AOA advise these screenings:

  • A pediatrician or healthcare provider should check a newborn's eyes to make sure they are healthy. (An ophthalmologist or optometrist should look at all newborns at risk of developing serious vision problems in childhood. They should also check those with developmental delays.) Not all visual problems are because of abnormal focus. Babies may be born with cataracts, cloudy corneas, or other problems that affect vision.

  • A healthcare provider should check the eyes of children between 6 months and 1 year of age.

  • A healthcare provider should do a vision screening between ages 3 and 3 ½ years. The focus should be on checking visual acuity. A formal test of visual acuity should be done by age 5.

  • For children ages 6 to 17, a vision screening should happen before first grade. Then they should check every year after that.

The need for follow-up visits and how often they'll happen will be determined by whether or not your child is at risk of developing eye and vision problems. Healthcare providers can prescribe glasses—even bifocals—and contact lenses for premature infants and other children with vision problems.

With strabismus, or crossed eyes, the eyes sometimes fail to work together when looking at a near object. Experts can spot this problem in children as young as 2 or 3 months.

Strabismus may cause reduced vision in the weaker eye. That's because the brain recognizes the image of the better-seeing eye and ignores the image of the weaker eye. Healthcare providers treat this by putting a patch on the "good" eye. It strengthens and improves vision in the weaker eye. If the condition is diagnosed when a child is young, treatment usually works. Surgery may also be used to make the eyes focus at the same time on the same point. This is generally done if patching doesn't work.

Signs of eye problems

Here are some things to look for:

  • Babies older than 3 months who don't make eye contact or have eyes that look different ways—a pediatrician should check these babies (this may also be a sign of blindness, intellectual disability, neurological problems, or autism, as well as eye problems)

  • Babies who don't watch a favorite object (like a pacifier) if you move it to the side

  • Children who tilt their heads to see things

  • Children, including older children, who squint (a school-age child who squints to see the blackboard may be nearsighted)

If you see any of these behaviors, or if you have any other concerns about your child's vision, contact your pediatrician right away for an evaluation. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Chris Haupert MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Whitney Seltman MD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2023
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