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Your Child’s First Eye Exam

Frequently asked questions about your child’s first eye exam

How can I prepare my child for their first eye exam?

First, reassure the child that there is nothing to be afraid of. They will be asked to look at pictures or letters and “play some games”. Our waiting room has video games, TV, books and toys. If it is their first visit, it is very likely they will receive eye drops to dilate their pupils. Even though the drops do sting a little, try to focus on the positive, emphasizing that it is over very quickly.

Why does my child need to have their pupils dilated?

An eye exam for a child is very different than for adults, and the ophthalmologist relies heavily on objective (what we see) versus subjective (what the child tells us) information. When the pupils are dilated the examiner is able to accurately measure the refractive power of the eye which is critical in evaluating a child’s visual function. Dilating the pupils also allows for a complete view of the retina and optic nerve. Imagine trying to look into a room through a keyhole (non-dilated pupil) versus a wide open door (dilated pupil). The dilated exam is very important in young children as there are very rare but malignant tumors of the eye that can occur in children.

What if my child is non-verbal, how can the vision be assessed?

Experienced eye care professionals, including technician, Orthoptists and ophthalmologists have received extensive training in evaluating the visual function in children. We observe the child’s behavior while presenting visually interesting toys and pictures.

What if my child doesn’t know all the letters?

We can test vision using pictures, numbers or tracking toys which does not require verbal input from the child.

What if my child is not cooperative for the exam?

The exam provides the most accurate information when we can engage the child’s cooperation, which we are skilled at achieving. There are circumstances where this is not possible, but we can still obtain valuable information, though incomplete, through an objective evaluation.

What if my child has special needs?

Our eye care professionals, including certified technicians, Orthoptists and Ophthalmologists are fully trained in evaluating visual function in special needs children. However, in an effort to maximize comfort and cooperation, occasionally your child’s exam can be divided up into two separate visits.

How long should I expect to be in the office?

A child’s eye exam takes longer than an adult’s eye exam. Please allow between 2 to 2.5 hours for your child’s visit. After the initial paperwork is done, the child is evaluated by a technician and the history is taken. The pupils are dilated by the technician and the child plays in the waiting area for 30-40 minutes while the drops take effect, darker color eyes make take longer time to dilate and may require additional dilating drops, the child this then evaluated by the ophthalmologist.

What if my child falls asleep or gets fussy or hungry while we wait?

It is best to have the child well rested for the appointment, if at all possible. Our staff will do their best to adapt to the particular situation, as children are often not as predictable as we would like. Frequently, for babies, we will try to keep the baby hungry during pupil dilation so that you can give the child a bottle while Dr. Silverberg is doing his examination. While a baby is drinking his/her bottle, the examination can often be done quite easily. Please bring a bottle or a snack.

How long will the blurred vision and dilated pupils last?

The dilating drops used in children are longer acting than those commonly used in adults. They take 30-40 minutes to work (as opposed to 15-20 minutes in adults) and last an average of 6 hours. The length of effect varies tremendously in different children and can last up to 24-48 hours in unusual circumstances. There can be temporary blurred vision (mostly at near range) and light sensitivity.

Is there anything else that can be done to make this a positive experience for my child?

Brief discussions in advance of the appointment, describing what will happen and keeping a positive attitude should help prepare the child. We usually give treats to the child at the end of the visit as a reward for their cooperation.