Vision Screening and Eye Exams for Children and Teens
All children need routine vision checks and eye exams with their 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 1
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.footnote 2
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 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 who have refractive errors that impact their sight. If nearsightedness is severe or quickly gets worse in a child, the child will need exams more often.
- 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.
- 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.
- Committee on Practice and Ambulatory Medicine and Bright Futures Periodicity Schedule Workgroup (2020). 2020 recommendations for pediatric preventive health care. Pediatrics, published online February 18, 2020. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2020-0013. Accessed March 25, 2020.
- Wallace DK, et al. (2018). Pediatric eye evaluations, preferred practice pattern: I. Vision screening in the primary care and community setting; II. Comprehensive ophthalmic examination. Ophthalmology, 125(1): P184–P227. DOI: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2017.09.032. Accessed April 2, 2020.
Current as of: October 12, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:John Pope MD - Pediatrics & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine