When should my baby’s eyes be examined?

Did you know that just as there is a neonatal screening which detects serious metabolic disorders that are treatable and are not visible at birth, a visual screening should also be performed?

In fact, by law it is mandatory that a baby’s eyes be examined from the first weeks after his birth. Within the framework of World Sight Day, which is commemorated every year on the second Thursday of October, this time on October 14, APEC Hospital for the Blind invites, through the campaign, Ama tus ojos (Love your eyes), parents and caregivers to monitor the visual health of their children from the moment of their birth.

“Let’s not neglect sight because it is a sense that allows us to connect with the world and develop any other behavioral or cognitive ability”, said Dr. Linda Cernichiaro, a specialist in pediatric retina.

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When to examine my baby’s eyes

According to the specialist, both in children and adults, whenever we check the general state of our health, we must include an eye test, not only with the optometrist but also with an ophthalmologist, in order to diagnose conditions in a timely manner.

“Whenever a condition is diagnosed late, it will generate a visual alteration that can interfere with our activities, our development and our interaction with the world”.

In the case of babies, from the first weeks after birth, it is essential to carry out a neonatal visual screening, “The idea of the ​​screening is that children are checked early since, unlike adults, they do not they manifest or express that they have some ailment or disease”.

Visual neonatal screen

According to Cernichiaro, the pediatrician or the treating doctor should not only see the general health of the baby. He must also check the organs that usually have alterations that cause disability.

“There are five screenings:

  • Auditory screen detects if the child hears well.
  • Orthopedic one checks if there is no alteration in the hip that interferes with walking.
  • The cardiac one allows to know if there is any congenital failure of the heart and the metabolic one that there are no rare diseases of the metabolism.
  • Visual screening was created under the same concept”.

What does the neonatal visual screening consist of?

The neonatal visual screening is an examination performed by the pediatric ophthalmologist in the first four weeks of life. Most eye diseases have treatment and a good prognosis if they are detected early, hence the importance of their performance.

“Children generally do not complain of a visual problem and manifest it late like the pupil looks white, one eye squints (strabismus), kids stumble, they don’t turn to see their mother”…

“It had always been thought that until the alteration was evident, it was when they visited the ophthalmologist. But it is now understood that, as with the other screenings, a timely visual examination could detect early alterations that could leave sequelae”, explained the expert.

It’s not painful

The ophthalmologist’s recommendation is to do this study before the first month. However, if your baby is older, you can take him for the test. It is not painful and lasts about five or 10 minutes.

“It is suggested that babies do the test at that age to detect diseases and being so young, it is not painful and it costs less to do the exam. Older children are more distractible and less cooperative”.

How often should we check up our kids’ eyes?

The General Health Law in its article 61 establishes that children must be checked by an ophthalmologist at the first month of life. Then, between the 6 and 8 months. Later it is suggested that they be checked before they enter school, between the ages of two and three.

“At birth it is important to check the eyes are fine. At 6 and 8 months to see the function of their sight. And the 2 or 3 years to see if they need glasses or some optical aid”.

On basic vision care in children, the doctor recommends avoiding the use of electronic devices when they are babies. No child under 18 months of age should be in contact with any electronic device, zero tolerance.

At 4 or 5 years old, it can be left for an hour under the supervision of an adult and more than 50 centimeters from the eyes. Not close to the screen.

“If kids are online or on the computer with homework, they need to be next to natural light. That is, next to a window so that natural light is the one that illuminates. Outdoor activities must also be promoted, that makes develop less diopters”.

Premature babies should do their visual screening before

Cernichiaro noted that premature babies, born before 40 weeks, should be checked between the second and third week of life.  

“If they were born before 34 weeks or weigh less than 2 kilos, they must be checked between the second and third week of life. This is to prevent a disease called retinopathy of prematurity, which is treatable and if it progresses, it can lead to blindness. It is the first cause of blindness in our country”.

Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara

Spanish versión: Here

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