Glasses Can Help Even Young Children

When should a child get his or her first pair of glasses?

When he or she needs them. That may be as young as a few months of age.

Healthcare providers who specialize in children's eye care say kids usually become near- 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. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommend that all infants and children be screened for vision problems. An ophthalmologist or optometrist should examine any child who doesn’t pass one of the screening tests below.

Screening guide

The AAO and AOA recommend these screenings:

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

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

  • A healthcare provider should do vision screening between ages 3 and 3 1/2 years. The focus should be on checking visual acuity. A formal test of visual acuity should be done by age 5.

Healthcare providers can prescribe glasses—even bifocals—and contact lenses for premature infants and other children who have vision problems.

With strabismus, or crossed eyes, the eyes 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 because the brain recognizes the image of the better-seeing eye and ignores the image of the weaker eye. Healthcare providers treat the condition by putting a patch on the "good" eye to strengthen and improve vision in the weaker eye. If the condition is diagnosed when a child is young, treatment is usually successful. Surgery may also be used to make the eyes focus at the same time on the same point. This is generally done if patching isn’t successful.

Signs of eye problems

Here are some things to look for:

  • Infants older than 3 months who do not make eye contact or have eyes that look different ways. A pediatrician should evaluate these infants. This may also be a sign of blindness, intellectual disability, neurological problems, or autism, as well as eye problems.

  • Infants who don't watch a favorite thing (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 any of these behaviors are noticed, or if you have any other concerns about your child's vision, contact your pediatrician right away for an evaluation.