Question: How often should children have an eye exam?
Dr. Galbrecht: Every child should have a comprehensive eye exam to determine if they have normal vision or if they need glasses, and also to see if they need help with any of the learning processes in school. If they can't see normally they can't learn. The first eye exam should be between 6 months old to 1 year old. In addition, before the school year is a good time to come in so if there is a problem, we will catch it before school begins and they will start school on the right foot.
Question: What eye problems do children have compared to adults?
Dr. Galbrecht: Children have more binocularity problems compared to adults. Therefore, just because they can see well, doesn't mean they can read well. Many children have problems with accommodation or their ability to focus, which adults don't have. Even if the child has 20/20 vision, they may not be reading up to their grade level due to these problems. If a child does have focusing or accommodation issues, I will refer them to my colleague who is a vision therapy specialist and he will work one on one with the patient to resolve the problem.
Question: What is different about a children's eye exam than adult eye exam?
Dr. Galbrecht: We run a few extra tests which we don't need to run on adults. Most children's eyes are cycloplegic, therefore I will dilate their eyes, which inhibits their ability to focus, so I can get a perfect reading of their prescription. Additionally, we check their ability to see 3D. Then we determine: Can they fix and follow? Are they able to accommodate from far to near and from near to far? There are some of the extra texts we wouldn't necessarily do on an adult.
Question: What do you check for in older children?
Dr. Galbrecht: As the child gets a little bit older we will focus more on the health of the eye compared to just the binocularity of a younger child. We will look for anything else that may be in the eye that may cause the child problems, such as a corneal disease, or retinal disease, glaucoma, diabetic changes, and these sorts of issues.
Question: Does insurance cover my child's eye exams?
Dr. Galbrecht: All vision insurance covers children's eye exams. As for medical insurance, if you are on a newer plan, let's say the past 6 years, then yes, all children under the age of 18 years of age are covered for yearly eye exams.
Question: How do most children come to you? Are they referred to you or do they come for a regular checkup?
Dr. Galbrecht: I would say it's half/half. Half of my pediatric patients come to me because the school recommended it, or because a parent saw an issue they wanted to check out. The other half come in because they know that most optometrists recommend yearly routine eye exams for children, and they just want to make sure their child's eyes are OK. Of these patients, about 25-30% of the children do actually have a vision problem that we discover during the routine exam.