In 9 years of practicing optometry, I have observed the same tendency: most parents wait until children can communicate a problem or are manifesting problems in school in order to take them for an eye exam. When they do come for the eye exam, they can be surprised by the findings or sometimes even shocked by the degree of vision loss in their child.
Stats: 1 in every 20 preschool children has a vision problem.
Facts: Most of the vision problems that are present in preschool age children require early intervention in order to prevent permanent vision loss. Untreated vision disorders have been linked to cognitive or behavioral problems in children.
Stats: 1 in every 4 school aged children grade K-6th has an undetected vision problem. Nearly 3% of children younger than 18 years are blind or visually impaired, defined as having trouble seeing even when wearing glasses or contact lenses.
Facts: Vision screenings offered in schools or pediatricians are beneficial, but they are not comprehensive eye exams. Screening are intended to catch conditions that are easily evident and manifested in the moment, but they could never replace the diagnostic accuracy and extent of a comprehensive eye exams by an eye doctor.
I'll give you some common examples of how vision disorders could bypass a vision screening.
There is more to vision than being able to read an eye chart.
A child can have high amounts of Hyperopia or farsightedness and still have the ability to strain the eye's focusing ability in order to read the eye chart. While he might get away with, that is not a healthy condition for the eyes and their eyes can suffer it.
Stats: Hyperopia is present in 21% of children 6-72 months of age and 13% of children 5-17 years of age.
Some degrees of Strabismus may be unnoticeable other than when tested by an eye doctor. They can cause some degrees of permanent vision loss if left untreated and can cause double vision.
Stats: Strabismus is present in 2-4% of children under the age of 6.
Vision problems can arise at any age. A child can have normal vision during the first years of life and going into the school years but then develop Myopia (Nearsightedness) or astigmatism later on. The reason for this is because as we grow, the eye is still growing and changing and the tendency of growth in the eye is toward nearsightedness.
Stats: Myopia is present in 9% of children age 5-17 years. Astigmatism is present in 15-28% of children age 5-17 years.
Facts: Kids NEED regular eye exams by an eye doctor. Nowadays, eye doctors are seeing how the prevalence of Myopia is not only increasing, but kids are also developing high degrees of myopia at a younger age. Research shows that reasons for this is most probably due to genetic and environmental factors, being digital devices the number one concern.
So dear parents, lets start taking out kid's vision seriously. Don't overlook it. Here is a simple guide for eye exam frequency as Recommended by the American Optometric Association by age.
Age: Asymptomatic/Risk Free At Risk
Birth to 24 Months At 6 months of age By 6 months of age or as recommended
2 to 5 years At 3 years of age At 3 years of age or as recommended
6 to 18 years Before first grade and every Annually or as recommended
two years thereafter
At SightHealth we are an InfantSee provider. Learn more here.
**Stats obtained by Preventblindness.org and the American Optometric Association.