A baby’s development and learning in the first year and beyond can be significantly impacted by a vision or eye health issue. Recent province-wide research conducted by the Alberta Association of Optometrists reveals that although this is an important component of an infant health check-up, only 39 per cent of parents are taking this step at the recommended 6 to 9 months of age.
“While this finding is concerning, it’s not surprising that new parents may be uncertain about the importance of having their child’s eye health assessed early on,” says Dr. Kevin Engel, an optometrist in Lacombe. “There are many changes new parents have to adjust to, and it’s sometimes difficult to know what to prioritize when it comes to baby’s healthy development.”
Between 6 and 9 months is a critical time to ensure eyes are healthy, eye and muscle movements and alignment are developing properly, and the eyes are focusing together. Many vision problems have no easy-to-detect symptoms, which makes it virtually impossible for a parent to tell if an infant has difficulty seeing. A Doctor of Optometry has the ability to test infants for nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, eye movement, as well as overall eye health.
“Appreciating that new parents are often strapped for time, a comprehensive infant eye exam can be completed in about 15 minutes,” says Dr. Engel. “Knowing baby’s eyes have been thoroughly assessed and any problems detected early, gives parents added peace of mind concerning their child’s overall health.”
Parents are encouraged to speak with their Doctor of Optometry about Alberta Heath coverage for comprehensive eye exams for infants and children under the age of 19. Clinic staff will also discuss what parents can expect in their upcoming visit with their infant.
Alberta optometrists are trained to detect and treat eye health issues in infants, as well as children and adults. They complete a Bachelor of Science degree, followed by a four-year Doctor of Optometry degree from an accredited university focused solely on vision and eye health.
For more information, visit www.infanteyecare.ca.