What happens at a child’s eye exam?

September is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. If your child needs to see an eye doctor, you might wonder what to expect from his or her first eye exam.

The eye doctor will ask about your child’s health, activities, eye problems and any other health problems. If your child is old enough, the doctor will probably talk with him or her, too. This can help your child feel more comfortable.

What eye tests will my child have?
Your child’s eye exam will include:

  • Vision (visual acuity) test – We test how well your child sees at different distances. If your child can read, we use the standard eye chart. If not, we use shapes or a single letter in different positions (called the “tumbling E” test). We also check your child’s depth perception.
  • Pupil test – We check how your child’s eyes respond to light. The doctor shines a bright light in each eye for a moment to see if the pupil reacts normally.
  • Eye movement test – The doctor or eye technician moves a toy or finger in different directions to check how your child’s eyes follow it. We also check your child’s side (peripheral) vision.

How is my child’s eye exam done?

The doctor looks at the front part of the eyes, including the eyelids, cornea (clear covering over the front of the eye) and lens.

Next, drops are placed in your child’s eyes to widen (dilate) the pupil. This lets the doctor see the retina and optic nerve, which are at the back of the eye. The drops might sting, but just for a moment. Once the drops are in, you wait 30 to 40 minutes for the pupil to open up. Your child can play or do other activities while waiting. Finally, the doctor uses lights and lenses to examine the back of your child’s eye. Some of the lights are quite bright, but most children tolerate them well.

Your child’s vision will be blurry from the dilation, they may find it difficult to read and be sensitive to light. These effects of dilating are normal and can last anywhere from 12 – 24 hours.

What is refraction, and what do all the numbers mean?

Refraction is the part of an eye exam that determines how well your child sees at different distances, whether the eyes need help from glasses or contacts and how strong the prescription should be.

You probably know the phrase “20/20 vision.” This means you see an object 20 feet away normally. If you have 20/30 vision, you see the object as if it were 30 feet away.

If your child needs glasses or contacts, the numbers on the prescription tell the optician how much focusing power the lenses need. Learn more about reading an eyeglass prescription.

Every Oregon Eye Specialists clinic has a Sight Shop. Our opticians work with you and your child to select the best eyeglass lenses and frames.

Learn more about children’s eye exams and eye care

Every Oregon Eye Specialists clinic includes doctors and staff who treat children. Learn when your child should have an eye exam.

If you think your child might have an eye problem, request an appointment or call 503-935-5580.

About the Expert

Dr. Vasiliki Stoumbos practices comprehensive ophthalmology for patients of all ages. She has extensive experience in surgical procedures for cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, strabismus and eyelid conditions. Stoumbos is board certified in ophthalmology and internal medicine. In addition to serving our local patients, she has provided eye care to people across the world – working with Medical Teams International in Mexico and Honduras, and in Guatemala with Hospital de la Familia. Learn more about Dr. Vasiliki Stoumbos »