Where to go for help if you suspect your tot has a vision problem

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A newborn baby’s general eye health must be checked by a paediatrician or family doctor (general practitioner). High-risk newborns (including premature babies) with a family history of eye problems or obvious eye abnormalities must be examined by an ophthalmologist.

During the first year, all infants must undergo an eye health screening test by a paediatrician or family doctor as part of a routine examination. By the age of 3.5 years, children’s visual acuity (vision sharpness) should be tested by an optometrist. At the age of five, their vision and eye alignment should be checked by their optometrist and children who have problems with their eye muscles, can then be referred to an ophthalmologist.

“Eye care and eye examinations should be part of your child’s routine medical care.”

A comprehensive eye test is recommended at least every two years, unless there are cases where your child is wearing glasses, is diabetic or has a family history of eye problems, in which case it should be more frequent.

Where can parents go for help?

Eye care and eye examinations should be part of your child’s routine medical care. There are different doctors offering eye care, but their titles can sometimes be confusing:

  • Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who offer comprehensive eye care with medication and surgery.
  • Paediatric ophthalmologists are doctors who have undergone additional specialised training to treat child-specific eye problems.
  • Optometrists provide services similar to those of ophthalmologists, but they do not do surgery. Certain optometrists also specialise in child-specific eye problems.
  • Opticians fit and adjust glasses.

How a toddler’s eyes are tested when they are too young to speak

According to Inge, Mellins i-Style Vision Centres use the latest Zeiss technology from Germany, the so-called Zeiss i-Profiler. Each eye is as unique as a fingerprint and during the visual examination, a visual analysis is done to take an optical card or ‘fingerprint’ of each eye. This technology then provides a digital map of exactly 2 500 points in each eye in less than 60 seconds, making it very easy and convenient to determine your child’s refractive status without requiring any feedback on his or her side.

“For children from the age of three who are struggling to talk or are too shy to speak aloud, we can use a ‘tumbling E’ card,” says Inge. “It lets your child indicate with their hand in which direction the letter ‘E’ is directed (e.g. up, down, right or left). We also look at your child’s colour vision and how accurately the eye muscles function that make the eyes move, by performing relatively ‘simple’ tests that are objective,” she says.

Ophthalmoscopy is also performed as part of the routine examination, where the optometrist looks into the structures within the eye. For more eye care tips and advice visit www.mellins.co.za.

Also read: 

Eye health in babies and toddlers is closely related to their learning and development
7 important signs your toddler needs an eye exam