How Often Should My Teenager Have a Full Eye Exam?

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that children and teenagers have their eyes screened every one or two years during regular doctor checkups. If your child’s doctor sees signs of a problem or there is a family history of eye disease, a referral to an ophthalmologist for a full eye exam may be necessary. Regular eye screenings during routine medical exams can detect problems early.

Typical Eye Exam

Before conducting an eye exam, the ophthalmologist should ask questions about your teenager’s health history and that of your family. He may ask if your teen is currently taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications and if she has had any previous eye problems. The exam should include tests to assess her visual acuity and determine if she has any visual problems, such as astigmatism, nearsightedness or farsightedness. An eye doctor should also test her peripheral vision, see if her pupils respond to light and measure the pressure inside the eye. As part of the exam, the ophthalmologist examines the cornea and iris of each eye, inside of the eye and retina, and back of the eye.

Eye Problems points out that most common eye problems in children can be detected early with routine vision screenings 2. Often, eye doctors diagnose refractive errors, such as nearsightedness, by the time children are school-aged. Refractive vision problems like nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism make vision blurry because the eye doesn’t bend light rays properly. These conditions are usually treated by prescribing eyeglasses or contact lenses. Once your child begins wearing corrective lenses, annual checkups are necessary to check for changes in vision 2. says if your child is diagnosed with a vision problem, an eye doctor will want to check his vision at least once each year, even when he's a teenager 2.

Prescription Changes

According to Dr. Michael X. Repka, a professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, until about age 20, a teenager who wears corrective lenses may need her prescription changed frequently. Depending on the severity of the eye problem, a teenager might not necessarily need an eye exam every 12 months, but she should have one at least every 18 months. If your teen notices that her vision is getting worse before her next routine eye checkup, schedule a full eye exam sooner.

Follow-Up Care

The American Optometric Association suggests that after first grade, children who don’t have any eye problems or risk factors for eye disease should still have their eyes thoroughly examined every two years until age 18. Teenagers with vision problems or those at greater risk for developing eye disease generally need to have their eyes examined more often. Those who wear eyeglasses or contact lenses should have an annual exam. Signs that your teen could be having an eye problem include dry, itchy eyes, eye pain, seeing spots in front of his eyes, light flashes, headaches or noticeable changes in his vision.