FOREST GROVE, Ore. -- As parents we hear a lot about vaccinations and annual check ups, but did you also know a baby’s vision should be checked by an eye doctor in their first year?
That’s the recommendation of the American Optometric Association, which offers free infant eye exams through a program called InfantSEE.
“We want to intervene early enough to make a difference,” said Dr. J.P. Lowery. He offers the free exams in an eye clinic on the campus of Pacific University in Forest Grove.
Young patients like six-month-old Ellen Calus McLain are checked for eye alignment and optic defects.
“We don’t have any particular concerns but my husband and I both wear glasses and I feel like I was diagnosed late,” commented Ellen’s Mom, Martha.
Dr. Lowery said the research shows one-in-ten infants will have a problem.
“Many kids don’t come into the clinic until they’re already in school. We can give them glasses but often times it’s too late to correct the problem,” he said.
He explained that a baby’s vision develops over time mainly because of changes in the brain. “If a baby doesn’t have eyes that see, well those eyes don’t transmit a good image to the brain, so the brain doesn’t develop the capacity to see well.”
Lowery said pediatricians can do a basic eye exam on infants but he believes babies should also be examined by an optometrist.
“We dilate the pupils for a more thorough look,” he added.
Governor Kitzhaber proclaimed this November InfantSEE Month to raise awareness about the free exams.
In addition to its location on the Forest Grove campus, Pacific University has five other clinics in the Portland/Vancouver area.
Ellen’s parents were pleased to learn after her exam she had no sign of any problems, “Mom and Dad are a little near-sighted, so she may become near-sighted, but right now she’s perfect,” concluded Dr. Lowery.