Screening for Refractive Error

Eye doctors at NYU Langone recommend regular eye exams throughout life. In the United States, an initial screening for refractive error and other vision problems takes place when a baby is born. A doctor visually examines the baby’s eyes and pupils. He or she also conducts one or two simple tests to determine if the eye is healthy. 

The American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus—strabismus is more commonly known as crossed eyes—recommends regular vision screening from the time a child is born until he or she is 21 years old. Most schools and pediatricians in the United States provide vision screenings for children and teens. 

These screenings test varying aspects of vision, such as a child’s ability to track objects that move across the field of vision and to focus on near and far objects. The screener also examines a child’s eyelids, pupils, and irises for any abnormalities in shape or color.

If a child displays any signs of poor vision or poor eye health in these screenings—or if your child tells you or a day care provider or teacher that some objects are difficult to see—doctors recommend that you bring your child to an ophthalmologist or optometrist for a more thorough eye exam. This exam can determine if your child has refractive error or another eye condition. Children receive screening for refractive error through Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone.

For adults, doctors recommend periodic eye exams after age 21 to identify any changes in vision or eye health and to maintain good vision at every stage of life. If you’ve never been diagnosed with refractive error or another eye condition and have not noticed any changes in your eyesight, NYU Langone doctors typically recommend an eye exam at age 21, age 30, and age 35.

After age 40, many people begin to experience presbyopia, which makes reading and seeing objects up close more difficult. After this age, doctors typically recommend an eye exam every one to two years so your eye doctor can monitor any changes in a refractive error. Eye doctors also screen for conditions such as glaucoma, which leads to damage of the nerve that connects the eye to the brain, and cataract, which clouds the lens of the eye. These conditions are more common after age 40.

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