What can we expect at different stages of our visual development?
Here is a look:
Infants (birth to six months)
Like most skills, babies also need to learn to use their eyes! They begin life seeing only what is important…their parent’s face! Their visual acuity is about 20/200 to 20/400. Their ability to see colours is also very limited so infants prefer to see black and white patterns and designs. Infants are also learning to use their eye muscles so during this time an infant’s eyes may appear to occasionally wander or look crossed. This is usually normal until about 3 months . However, if an eye appears to turn in or out constantly a trip to the eye doctor is strongly advised.
Babies learn very quickly! By 6 months their vision has developed to almost adult level, 20/25. The eyes are capable of working together and acquire depth perception, or the ability to see in 3-D. By this age, the infants colour vision has also developed, although not yet as good as an adult’s
This is also a good age to bring babies in for their first eye exam to ensure their eyes are developing normally.
Signs of Eye and Vision Problems in Infants
Eye and vision problems in infants are rare. But occasionally, eye health and vision complications can develop. Parents can look for the following signs:
- Excessive tearing – this may indicate blocked tear ducts
- Red or encrusted eye lids – this could be a sign of an eye infection
- Constant eye turning – this may signal a problem with eye muscle control
- Extreme sensitivity to light – this may indicate an elevated pressure in the eye
- Appearance of a white pupil – this may indicate the presence of an eye cancer
Any of these signs warrant an immediate eye exam.
Preschoolers (3-5 years)
During the preschool years, your child is still hard at work fine tuning their vision and visual skills.
You can help your child to develop good hand to eye coordination and depth perception by doing such simple activities. Playing ball, building blocks, painting,drawing and colouring can all help in their visual development.
Some signs that your child may be experiencing visual problems:
- rubbing the eyes, squinting or excessive blinking
- sensitivity to light
- red, itchy or watering eyes
- an eye that turns in or out
- holding objects too close
- lack of concentration, or a short attention span
- frustration or irritability
Many times a child may not be seeing well out of one or both eyes but they don’t realize it. They don’t know any other way of seeing! They assume that everyone sees this way. That is why it is crucial to bring your child in at this age. Many conditions such as “lazy eye” or amblyopia can be treated at this age. After the age of 6, it becomes much more difficult (sometimes impossible) to reverse these conditions.
Children should have an eye exam done annually starting at the age of three. Eye exams are covered by MSP for children up to age 18.
School-age (ages 5-18)
Now that your child is attending school full-time, the increased visual demands brought on by schoolwork may point out a vision problem that was not apparent before. Some of the symptoms to look for are:
- complaints of headaches, or obvious irritability
- trying to avoid near or distance work
- rubbing of the eyes
- omitting or confusing words when reading
- losing their place when reading, or using a finger to hold their place
- performing below their potential
Conditions that may develop during this stage can include myopia or nearsightedness, hyperopia or farsightedness, and astigmatism. Should you notice any of the above symptoms, you should book an appointment for an eye exam. Children, 18 and under, are covered by MSP and should have an eye exam each year.
Adults (ages 19-40)
All of the prescription changes for your glasses that you experienced through your childhood should stabilize by the time you are an adult. However, as you enter into the workforce, depending on your visual demands, you may feel that your vision is changing or you are experiencing eye strain. This is common, especially for those who do a lot of desk or computer work. This is easily remedied by a pair of task specific glasses that take the strain off so by the end of the day, your eyes feel less tired!
It is essential that adults continue to have a regular eye exam to maintain your eye health and help your vision to last a lifetime.
Ages 40 -64
40 is the new 30!…well not when if comes to your eyes unfortunately! As our eyes turn 40-45, you may begin to notice changes in your near vision. Maybe you notice that you are holding your reading materials farther away to the point where your arms aren’t long enough? This is a natural part of the aging process as our focusing muscles and the lens inside of our eyes begin to lose their flexibility. An eye exam will usually reveal if you need prescription reading glasses.
A comprehensive eye exam is important during these years as it can also reveal hidden health issues such as high blood pressure, certain types of vascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, autoimmune disorders and even brain or eye tumors. As these conditions may often have a slow progression, you may not initially notice a change in your vision. Therefore, it is recommended that adults between the ages of 19 and 64 have an eye exam at least every two years. For those patients already diagnosed with the above listed eye conditions, you may be asked to have an eye exam more frequently. Eye exams for adults are not covered by MSP, please contact our office for details.
As we age, most people will experience a change in their vision. Certain conditions such as cataracts can cause shifts in your vision that requires frequent prescription changes. Adults over the age of 64 should have an eye exam at least once a year. It is important to remember that often conditions that affect your eyesight may have no visible symptoms! Early diagnosis and treatment is critical in maintaining your eyesight. Conditions that may affect your eyesight at this stage include but are not limited to:
- Diabetic Retinopathy
- Macular Degeneration
Eye exams for seniors are partially covered by MSP, please contact our office for details.
If you have any questions please call our office and we would be happy to help you!