Eye and Vision Tests for Children and Teens
Use the guidelines below to schedule routine vision checks and eye exams with your pediatrician or family doctor.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommend that all children have an eye exam during the newborn period and again at all routine well-child visits. footnote 2
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening (tests) to detect lazy eye (amblyopia), misaligned eyes (strabismus), and defects in visual acuity in children between the ages of 3 and 5 years.
The AAP recommends that vision screening start around age 3 and occur each year at ages 4, 5, and 6. After that, screening should occur at ages 8, 10, 12, and 15.footnote 3
The AAO recommends that vision screening start around age 3 and occur each year at ages 4 and 5. After age 5, the AAO recommends screening every 1 to 2 years.footnote 4
Eye exams by a specialist (an ophthalmologist or optometrist) are recommended if a child of any age has:
- A family history of eye problems, especially genetic eye diseases.
- Signs of misaligned eyes, lazy eye, or nearsightedness.
- A red, swollen, or cloudy eye.
Children who have refractive errors or have a disease that affects the eyes
Children and teens with a disease that affects the eyes can follow the eye exam and vision testing schedule for all children. It’s best that they see an eye doctor (specialist) for their eye care.
At least once a year, most eye doctors want to check the vision of children and teens that have refractive errors that impact their sight. If nearsightedness is severe or quickly gets worse in a child, he or she will need exams more often.
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2017). Vision screening in children aged 6 months to 5 years: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA, 318(9): 836-844. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2017.11260. Accessed August 6, 2018.
- American Academy of Pediatrics, et al. (2016). Policy statement: Visual system assessment in infants, children, and young adults by pediatricians. Pediatrics, 137(1): 28–30. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2015-3596. Accessed March 6, 2017.
- Committee on Practice and Ambulatory Medicine, Bright Futures Periodicity Schedule Working Group (2016). 2016 recommendations for preventive pediatric health care. Pediatrics, 137(1). DOI: 10.1542/peds.2015-3908. Accessed December 7, 2015.
- American Academy of Ophthalmology Pediatric Ophthalmology/Strabismus Panel (2012). Pediatric eye evaluations. (Preferred Practice Pattern). San Francisco: American Academy of Ophthalmology. Also available online: http://one.aao.org/CE/PracticeGuidelines/PPP_Content.aspx?cid=2e30f625-1b04-45b9-9b7c-c06770d02fe5.
Other Works Consulted
- American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Ophthalmology, et al. (2013). Screening examination of premature infants for retinopathy of prematurity. Pediatrics, 131(1): 189–195. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012.2996. Accessed April 20, 2016.
Current as of: May 5, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:John Pope MD – Pediatrics & E. Gregory Thompson MD – Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD – Family Medicine