Pediatric Eye Exams: When to Get Them and What You Need to Know

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Pediatric Eye Exams: When to Get Them and What You Need to Know

Vision development in young children is crucial in learning and setting them up for success in school and in life! Many families are not aware that optometrists and ophthalmologists examine children as young as 6 months old for routine exams to ensure there are no problems that could affect this development. It is important to find an eye doctor who is experienced with children and makes the process fun and comfortable for your child. Urbandale Eye Care sees patients of all ages, and they would be happy to answer any questions you have about pediatric vision and eye exams!

Here are some common questions answered by Dr. Melissa Kyler of Urbandale Eye Care.

My child seems to see great. Why go to the eye doctor?

Many vision problems can go undetected without an eye exam. A child won’t always know to complain, a lazy eye doesn’t always cross, and internal health issues aren’t visible by just looking at the child. Sometimes the vision is perfect 20/20, but the way the eyes work as a team is causing strain, double vision, or words moving around on the page. Most of the time, we can reassure parents that things are right on track, but it is best to be sure. A vision screening or quick check at the pediatrician can’t identify all of these issues the way a complete eye exam can.

When should I bring my child in?

You should schedule an exam any time you have concerns about your child’s vision, at any age. The American Optometric Association recommends a full routine eye exam with an eye doctor through the infant see program at age 6-12 months, again at age 3, and at least every two years even with no symptoms. Yearly is the best way to ensure they are seeing their best. If you missed these ages, don’t worry! Now is the best time to start.

What is a pediatric eye exam like?

Fun and silly! A child’s eye exam will be tailored to their age, level of development, and participation. We are able to fully assess without any verbal interaction, but involve the child’s input if they are ready. Most parents don’t realize it can be a completely different eye exam than what they are used to! The doctor will examine multiple aspects of vision, muscle movements, eye health, and how well the eyes work as a team. Dilating the pupils is a common part of the exam for two reasons. It allows the doctor to view the internal structures quickly and fully, but it also gives a more accurate assessment of the refractive error (or prescription) of the eyes. Most children have a low amount of refractive error that is normal and we want to let it reduce on its own without needing any glasses. If there is a large amount in one or both eyes, we will determine if it is likely to impact development and learning, and glasses may be prescribed. Take the time to ask questions to fully understand your child’s vision at the end of the exam.

How can I prepare for the visit?

Get your child excited about the fun things they will get to do and learn! There are fun machines, cool eye tricks, and lots of neat things to learn. Most children are nervous but they quickly relax and have fun. You can reassure them there won’t be a shot, but sometimes it is better to let the doctor warm them up to the idea of eye drops if needed so they aren’t worried about coming in. Children tolerate dilation very well, but when scheduling the appointment, it is important to know you may need to wait 30 minutes for the drops to work, and the large pupils and near blur often last a full 24 hours. It is a great idea to bring some books, toys, a snack, etc to occupy their time while they are waiting in the office. Due to COVID, many offices do not have the same toys and distractions sitting out that they had prior. 

Please reach out if you have any questions! You can reach Dr. Melissa Kyler at or with a message at the office: 515-278-0123.


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