Vision disorders are widespread among the pediatric population with one in 20 children at risk for permanent vision loss due to vision disorders like amblyopia.1 Fortunately, with early detection and treatment, 80% of vision disorders can be prevented or cured.2 However, only 1 in 3 American children has received eye care services before the age of six.3
Vision loss can be caused by a wide range of factors including damage to the eye, incorrect eye shape, or from a problem within the brain.4 Equal input from both eyes is vital for normal development of the vision system in babies and young children.5 A child's vision may be permanently impaired if eyes are unable to send clear image signals to the brain.5
Up to 10% of preschoolers and 25% of school-age children have a vision disorder that can impact learning and quality of life.6 Here are some of the most common disabling vision disorders among U.S. children:3
Among preschool children, less than 15% receive comprehensive eye examinations and less than 22% undergo vision screenings.8 The evaluation of the visual system is vital as it can help detect conditions like strabismus and amblyopia that distort or suppress normal visual images and may lead to vision loss.6 Vision screening and comprehensive eye exams are complementary methods for evaluating vision disorders in children.3
Pediatric vision screening is the first line of defense for detecting potential vision problems early on when treatment is more likely to be effective.9 Vision screening is an efficient and cost-effective method that can be conducted by primary care providers, eye care professionals, school nurses and other trained laypersons. Vision screening can help identify children who have or are at risk for developing vision disorders such as amblyopia, strabismus, and various refractive errors (e.g., myopia, hyperopia).3 A child should be referred to an eye care professional if they fail a vision screening test.10
A comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) is required to formally diagnose and treat vision disorders. During the exam, various tests are performed to evaluate visual acuity, depth perception, eye alignment, and eye movement.8 Eye drops are used to dilate the pupil, enabling a more thorough investigation of the eye.
An instrument-based vision screener is a device that can help detect vision disorders that may cause visual impairment.11 An instrument-based vision screener takes an image of the eyes to measure refractive error and ocular misalignments and easy as having a photo taken with a digital camera.1, 12 An instrument-based vision screener is recommended for children who are unable to perform a visual acuity chart test.11
80% of all learning happens visually.13 Therefore, uncorrected vision disorders may result in impaired development, behavior problems, interference with early literacy and learning, and even permanent vision loss.14
To help facilitate early detection and treatment, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends all children between the ages of three and five years receive at least one vision screening to help detect vision problems.8
Additionally, the American Optometric Association recommends that asymptomatic or low-risk children should have a comprehensive eye exam at age three, followed by another exam prior to entering first grade and then at least every two years afterward.3 High-risk children (e.g., born prematurely, family history of vision problems or eye disease, noticeable abnormalities or symptoms of decreased vision, etc.) should bypass a vision screening and be directly referred to an eye care professional.9
To help educate your patients and staff, we’ve created a helpful infographic that conveys the importance of early detection and treatment of vision disorders in children.
1. Children’s Eye Foundation. https://www.childrenseyefoundation.org/see/. Accessed January 2, 2019.
2. Children’s Eye Foundation. https://www.childrenseyefoundation.org/. Accessed January 2, 2019.
3. Prevent Blindness Wisconsin. Our Vision for Children’s Vision: A National Call to Action for the Advancement of Children’s Vision and Eye Health. https://wisconsin.preventblindness.org/sites/default/files/national/documents/OurVisionforChildren_2010_0.pdf. Accessed January 2, 2019.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facts About Vision Loss. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/pdf/parents_pdfs/VisionLossFactSheet.pdf. Accessed January 2, 2019.
5. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Eye Screening for Children. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/children-eye-screening. Accessed January 2, 2019.
7. American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. Abnormal Head Position. https://www.aapos.org/terms/conditions/8. Accessed January 3, 2019.
8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Keep an Eye on Your Vision Health. https://www.cdc.gov/features/healthyvision/index.html. Accessed January 3, 2019.
9. Prevent Blindness Wisconsin. Understanding Vision Screenings and Eye Examinations. https://wisconsin.preventblindness.org/understanding-vision-screenings-and-eye-examinations. Accessed January 3, 2019.
10. HealthyChildren.org. Specific Eye Problems in Children. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/eyes/Pages/Specific-Eye-Problems.aspx. Accessed January 3, 2019.
11. American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. Anisometropia. https://www.aapos.org/terms/conditions/153. Accessed January 2, 2019.
13. Prevent Blindness Wisconsin. Vision Screening Frequently Asked Questions. https://wisconsin.preventblindness.org/sites/default/files/Wisconsin/documents/Vision%20Screening%20FAQ.pdf. Accessed January 15, 2019.
14. National Association of School Nurses. Vision and Eye Health. https://www.nasn.org/nasn-resources/practice-topics/vision-health. Accessed January 2, 2019.
15. American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. Vision Screenings. https://www.aapos.org/terms/conditions/107. Accessed January 3, 2019.