What should I ask my child’s eye doctor?
Questions to ask your child’s eye doctor
When it comes to your child’s vision, it’s important for you both to understand how their sight works and any issues that may occur. Among other questions, you may want to ask your child’s doctor why their vision is blurry or why it’s hard for them to maintain concentration in school.
The most common vision problem in kids ages 5 and older is uncorrected refractive error. The most well-known is myopia (nearsightedness), which causes faraway objects to appear blurry. In fact, about 9% of school-aged children have myopia, and as many as 30% of adolescents have it as well.
But it’s not the only vision condition children may experience. Hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism (distorted vision) are also common in children. These refractive errors may present with less blur than myopia but can still have a significant effect on vision and learning.
With the help of trusted eye health experts Valerie Kattouf O.D., All About Vision board member, and Krista Kelly, Ph.D., of the Retina Foundation of the Southwest, we’ve put together a list of 10 key questions to ask your child’s eye doctor at your next appointment.
Click here for our printable version you can take with you to your child's eye doctor.
1. Is my child showing symptoms of an eye problem?
Some children have vision problems but may not be aware of them. Others may experience symptoms but not report them. Children often don’t know how to describe their symptoms or understand that there is a problem with their vision at all.
An eye doctor will be able to tell you if they are showing signs of a vision problem and educate you on what else to look for. Then they will help you understand what can be done to correct or treat the issue.
2. How can I tell if my child has a vision problem?
There are several common symptoms of vision problems that you can look for in your child’s behavior. These include:
Holding books and other objects close to their face, or sitting too close to the TV
Complaining of headaches
Tilting their head or covering an eye
Having difficulty playing games or sports that require hand-eye coordination
Your child may experience one or more of these symptoms depending on the vision issue that exists. Ask your doctor what else you should look for and encourage your child to speak up if they have trouble with anything on this list (or otherwise).
3. What vision problem does my child have? Can you explain it to me?
Your child’s eye doctor can provide you with a written summary of your child’s condition. Ask how the problem will affect your child in both the short and long terms, and whether it could cause other problems in their vision or overall health.
Some of the most common vision problems in children are myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism, which can all cause blurriness. Each of these refractive errors is managed with glasses or contact lenses. Ask your eye doctor to detail the proper wearing schedule for your child’s vision correction.
Whether it’s myopia or another vision issue, it’s important to understand how it affects your child, how it’s treated, and how to know if the problem gets worse.
4. Will myopia or another uncorrected refractive error affect my child’s academic performance? Can this be prevented?
Planning for your child’s future includes treating or correcting vision problems they could have. Simply put, if your child can’t see a whiteboard or presentation clearly, or if they can’t maintain clear vision on a book or digital device, it will negatively affect their learning.
If they aren’t getting all the information they need, this can make it difficult to succeed in anything from minor homework assignments and quizzes to major essays and exams.
It’s not uncommon for vision problems to get in the way of education. According to the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health, one in four school-aged children experiences an untreated or undetected vision condition that interferes with their learning.
Preventing sight-related academic problems is possible, but only if vision care is maintained and eye exams are performed regularly. Myopia specifically can get worse over time, especially as a child’s vision continues to develop into adulthood. Hyperopia and astigmatism tend to remain more stable.
Aside from blurry vision, your child could experience problems with eye teaming, hand-eye coordination or focusing that interrupt their learning process. These issues may present as headaches, eyestrain, and/or difficulty maintaining concentration with school work. Athletic performance may also be affected.
Every child is different, so speaking with your child’s eye doctor about these limitations can help you make the best plan for managing his or her eyesight.
5. What caused the condition in the first place?
Was it inherited? Did my child get this condition some other way? These are all important questions in getting to know your child’s vision problem. The root cause of an issue may play a role in determining treatment and can provide insight into how your child may be affected in the future.
Heredity is a strong factor in regard to uncorrected refractive error (for example, if one or both parents has myopia). It’s also possible for environmental demands — such as excessive use of digital devices — to influence vision issues.
Be sure to ask your doctor if your child’s treatment may vary depending on the cause of their issue.
6. Will their vision problem get worse?
Some vision problems worsen over time and cause serious problems if they are not corrected.
Talk to your child’s eye doctor about the best options for treating their vision condition and how to prevent it from getting worse. If it’s not possible to prevent progression of the condition, talk to your doctor about managing it in the short and long term.
7. What are the treatment options?
The appropriate treatment or vision correction depends on your child’s condition. And it’s very important to make sure the issue is taken care of properly, whether that includes corrective lenses, patching or other solutions.
Please note that eye exercises written about online are not necessarily a legitimate treatment for eye problems. However, your eye doctor may be able to direct you to a legitimate vision therapy program to treat your individualized condition.
8. How much will treatment cost?
Another factor to keep in mind when it comes to your child’s vision problem is how much it will cost financially to treat or correct it. Your doctor may have recommendations for payment plans and the office may be able to direct you towards financial assistance services in case of hardship.
Vision insurance can help cover the cost of treatment for your child’s vision problem. Ask your doctor how to make the best of insurance during your visit (whether it’s new glasses or contacts) and where to get the best eye care products online or in-store at a fair price. Remember that your eye doctor is your best choice to control the prescription for your child. They have no way to monitor the accuracy of corrective lenses provided by online services.
More serious eye problems and diseases may require a specialist’s attention. If you’re referred to a specialist, talk to them about costs, insurance and what to expect if you have questions.
9. What should I watch out for before my child’s next exam?
Additional symptoms can occur with your child’s vision problem, so it’s important to be on alert for whatever they may be. Ask your doctor for specific symptoms related to their condition, and don’t hesitate to reach out if other problems develop.
If your child experiences consistent symptoms, make a note of how often they occur and how intense they are. This information could be important for your doctor in determining whether to continue or adjust treatment for a specific condition.
Should an emergency situation occur (such as an eye injury or chemical exposure), call your eye doctor immediately.
10. How often should my child have an eye exam?
This could be different for your child, depending on what vision problems he or she has. If your child is under 5 years of age, an eye exam every two years is recommended. Once your child is school-age or has been prescribed glasses or contacts, it’s best to have an eye exam once a year to monitor for change or progression of visual conditions.
Eye diseases and other serious problems may require more maintenance, so defer to your doctor regarding exam frequency in those cases.
If your child has questions about their vision, encourage them to speak up during their appointment! This can provide their eye doctor with even greater insight into their vision and any problems they may experience (just be sure not to interrupt!).
READ NEXT: How to talk to your kids about myopia
Eye screening for children. American Academy of Ophthalmology. March 2021.
Myopia (nearsightedness) in children. American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Ophthalmology. April 2021.
School-aged vision: 6 to 18 years of age. American Optometric Association. Accessed January 2022.
Vision screening guidelines by age. National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health. Accessed January 2022.
Page published on Wednesday, March 2, 2022
Medically reviewed on Tuesday, February 8, 2022