When it's back-to-school time, it's time to scramble to buy new clothes, notebooks, backpacks and other supplies for a new school year. August is also Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, and healthy vision, one of the most important necessities, is too often omitted from parents’ checklists.
Why is regular vision screening so important?
Good vision is key to a child’s physical development, success in school and overall well-being. The vision system is not fully formed in babies and young children, and equal input from both eyes is necessary for the brain’s vision centers to develop normally. If a young child’s eyes cannot send clear images to the brain, his or her vision may become limited in ways that cannot be corrected later in life. But if problems are detected early, it is usually possible to treat them effectively.1
When and how should screening be done?
During a vision exam, an eye doctor reviews medical history and completes a series of tests to determine the health of your child’s eyes. This information may lead to medical procedures or prescriptions. For children and young adults, eye examinations should take place periodically as follows:
- Before age 3: All children should have their eyes checked before age 3. If there is family history of childhood vision problems, or if the child has a wandering eye, crossed eye or other eye problem, his or her eyes should be checked earlier.
- 3-20 years of age: Every 1-2 years, or as recommended.
What’s the difference between vision screening and an eye exam?
In contrast to vision screening, a comprehensive eye exam can facilitate diagnosis of visual problems. It involves the use of eye drops to dilate the pupil, enabling a more thorough investigation of the overall health of the eye and the visual system. The American Academy of Ophthalmology advises parents to seek a comprehensive eye exam if:
- Their child fails a vision screening
- Vision screening is inconclusive or cannot be performed
- Referred by a pediatrician or school nurse
- Their child has a vision complaint or observed abnormal visual behavior, or is at risk for developing eye problems. Children with medical conditions, such as Down syndrome, prematurity, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, neurofibromatosis or a family history of amblyopia, strabismus, retinoblastoma, congenital cataracts or congenital glaucoma are at higher risk for developing pediatric eye problems.
- Their child has a learning disability, developmental delay, neuropsychological condition or behavioral issue1
1 Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology