How Is Vision Loss Diagnosed?

For very young infants, it may be difficult to determine any kind of vision problem without a professional exam.  From birth to 3 months, a baby’s vision develops from blurry shapes to recognizing faces and distinguishing color and form.

As your baby grows, you may notice signs and symptoms that include:

  • constant eye rubbing
  • extreme light sensitivity
  • poor focusing
  • poor visual tracking (following an object)
  • abnormal alignment or movement of the eyes (after 6 months of age)
  • persistent redness of the eyes
  • persistent tearing of the eyes
  • a white pupil instead of black

In school-age children, watch for other signs such as:

  • difficulty seeing objects at a distance
  • difficulty reading the blackboard
  • squinting
  • difficulty reading
  • sitting too close to the TV

If you notice any eye problems, have your child examined immediately. If caught early, some eye conditions can be corrected.

Eye Exams

There are several different types of eye doctors.

  • Optometrists provide routine primary eye care and can prescribe eyeglasses and examine vision.
  • Opticians fit and adjust eyeglasses.
  • Pediatric ophthalmologists have special training to treat eye problems in children and provide comprehensive medical care.

Your pediatrician may perform general eye screens during well-baby exams and refer to an eye doctor if a problem is suspected. In general, screening and exams should be conducted on a regular basis.

  • Newborns should be checked for general eye health by a pediatrician or family physician in the hospital nursery.
  • High-risk newborns (including premature infants), those with a family history of eye problems and those with obvious eye irregularities should be examined by a pediatric ophthalmologist.
  • In the first year of life, all infants should be routinely screened for eye health during checkups with their doctors.
  • Around age 3, kids should undergo eye health screenings and visual acuity tests (or tests that measure sharpness of vision) with their primary care doctors.
  • Around age 5, kids should have their vision and eye alignment evaluated by their primary care doctors. Those who fail either test should be examined by an eye doctor.
  • After age 5, further routine screenings should be done at school or the doctor’s office, or after the appearance of symptoms such as squinting.
  • Children with significant neurodevelopmental disabilities should be referred to a pediatric ophthalmologist for screening at the time the atypical development is identified.
  • Children unable to participate in routine office screenings should also be referred to a pediatric ophthalmologist for evaluation.

Find Support

Have questions about vision loss?

Visit the My Child Without Limits support community and talk to parents, caregivers, and professionals about their experiences with vision loss.


Want to learn more about vision loss?

American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus

FamilyConnect (For Parents of Children with Visual Impairments)

Prevent Blindness America

The Association for Retinopathy of Prematurity and Related Diseases