Children's Vision Month

Importance of Eye Exams

A survey conducted by Leger Marketing on Children's Eye Health in July 2010, reported that 61 per cent of Canadian parents mistakenly believe they would know if their child was having difficulty with their eyesight. However, many serious eye conditions do not have obvious symptoms and some eye diseases only show symptoms when the condition is advanced and difficult to treat. Conditions such as amblyopia or a “lazy eye” need to be addressed when a child is young. Comprehensive eye examinations would result in 51% more children receiving successful treatment for amblyopia by age 10.

As indicated by the Canadian Association of Optometrists evidence based Frequency Guidelines published in Primary Health Care in 2012, Doctors of Optometry recommend infants have their first eye examination between six and nine months of age. Children should have at least one eye exam between the ages of two and five, and yearly after starting school to ensure optimal vision and development.

It is estimated that only 14% of Canadian children under the age of six have had eye exams from a Doctor of Optometry.  Fortunately, according to Leger Marketing these numbers are improving but still half of children under the age of four have never seen an optometrist.

CAO recommends that a thorough eye examination include:

  • A review of the child's health and vision history.
  • Tests for nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, color perception, lazy eye, crossed-eyes, eye coordination, depth perception and focusing ability.
  • Overall assessment of ocular health

Vision and Learning

It has been shown that 80% of all learning during a child's first 12 years is visually based, therefore a comprehensive eye examination is essential to provide the full assurance of vision and eye health that a simple eye-chart test or a vision screening cannot.

In some provinces, schools offer vision screening programs that many parents and teachers misconstrue as a comprehensive eye exam. It is important to recognize that vision screening is a limited procedure, not equivalent to an optometric eye exam. Studies have shown that approximately 43 per cent of children with vision problems can pass a vision screening test.

While vision screening tests the ability to see clearly at a distance, a comprehensive eye exam looks at all aspects of a child’s vision function, including how well the eyes focus up close, how the eyes work together and the overall health of the eyes. Even if your child has 20/20 vision, they still need to have an eye exam.