The Importance of Children’s Vision Screening by MaryAnn Ragone DeLambily

Why Early Vision Screening is Important

Eye Screening is intended to detect vision disorders that may lead to Amblyopia, also called lazy eye. Many vision disorders, if not detected and treated during the first years of life, can lead to permanent vision impairment, which neither glasses nor any other visual aid can address. 

Learning is Visual

Approximately 80% of all learning comes through the visual pathways. Any interruption or interference in the visual pathways can detain a child from performing to his maximum potential. If a child is not learning according to his potential or level, then this will cause a delay in the learning process and/or development causing difficulties and struggles as they progress in school.

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), 25 percent of all children, or 1 in 4 students, have a vision problem significant enough to impact their learning.

Why Do We Need Early Vision Screening

We need early vision screening for children for prevention. We all know about the importance of preventative medicine. This is no different. From the ages of 0 thru 3 years of age, amblyopia prevention is critical. It is at this time of prevention that Amblyopia or other complications can be treated. After the age of 3 years old, prevention is still necessary, but as children get older, it gets more difficult to treat. 

Early vision screening identifies risk factors in children from early as 6 months of age through 6 year of age. The earlier risk factors are identified through screening, the earlier it can be treated. 

Possible Vision Problems

Vision problems can lead to a loss of sight, learning difficulties or delayed development.  Some visual disorders lead to a disability called Amblyopia which can cause monocular blindness. According to Prevent Blindness, it is estimated that two to three percent of the general population suffers from Amblyopia. An amblyopic child who was never treated becomes an amblyopia adult with lingering difficulty in learning, sports, and maybe even a job or career.

What is Amblyopia?

Amblyopia is also called lazy eye. It is a disorder of sight due to the eye and brain not working well together.  It results in decreased vision in an eye that otherwise typically appears normal.  It is the most common cause of decreased vision in a single eye among children and younger adults. 

Strabismus and significant refractive errors are considered risk factors for Amblyopia which include myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, and anisometropia.  Refractive errors occur when parallel light rays are not brought to a sharp focus precisely on the retina, producing a blurred retinal image. 

Definition of Refractive Errors

* Nearsightedness (Myopia) – the cornea and lens bend (refract) incoming light rays so they focus precisely on the retina at the back of the eye resulting in blurred far vision.

* Farsightedness (Hyperopia) – In the farsighted eye, the light rays are refracted too far.  They meet behind the retina, resulting in blurred near vision.

* Astigmatism – In astigmatism, the curvature of the cornea is irregular, causing light rays to focus to more than one place so that a single clear image cannot be formed on the retina, resulting in blurred vision.

* Anisometropia – This means that the two eyes have a different refractive power (glasses prescription) so there is an unequal focus between the two eyes.

* Anisocoria – this means the pupil size is significantly different in size between each pupil. 

* Strabismus – There are different types of strabismus including esotropia where one or both eyes turn inward; Hypertropia when the visual axis of one eye is higher than the fellow fixating eye and Exotropia when one or both eyes turn outward. 

How Does Early Vision Screening help?

A vision screening may identify the need for a more comprehensive eye exam to be completed by an eye care professional. A screening can be done by lay people such as the Lions Clubs, medical and non-medical professionals, school nurses, pediatricians, and others. The intention of a screening is to identify, not diagnose, vision problems in the early treatable stages. It renders a result, if not passing, a referral to an eye care professional for further evaluation. 

Vision screening is important because it gives the opportunity to prevent, detect, and treat children that otherwise may be at risk of permanent and lifelong visual disability. A child may not even know their eyesight isn’t normal because it might be normal for them.  It is important to get these screenings done to find the problems that could be easily missed. 

The Best Time for Early Vision Screening is Now When it comes to young eyes, there is an important window of opportunity when certain vision conditions can be more easily corrected while children are still growing and developing. 

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