Imagine a child who can’t see properly but is too young to understand. What does his world look like? How does it make daily tasks harder? The importance of vision screenings in children, especially young children, cannot be underestimated since they can’t always verbalize what they see (or can’t see). Approximately one in 17 preschool-aged children and one in four school-aged children has some type of vision disorder. Vision screenings allow parents, teachers, and doctors to help children obtain the diagnosis and treatment they need in order to interact fully with the world around them.
Adults should also have their vision regularly checked, especially as they age. All-in-all, vision screenings can detect common vision disorders. Because having blurry vision, macular degeneration, glaucoma, or a whole host of disorders threatens a patient’s everyday functioning, ophthalmologists are dedicated to prescribing corrective eyewear or taking preventative measures to avoid worsening eyesight.
Our eyes are amazing and are the second most complex organ of our body (the brain wins first place). Human eyeballs can process more than 30,000 pieces of information in a single hour. Our eyes allow us to see the beauty of the world, from sunsets to our mother’s face or our child’s college graduation. Without properly functioning eyesight, we miss out on a lot of information. Children who have trouble with blurry vision have more difficulty focusing in school and generally aren’t able to learn material as quickly as their peers who have good or corrected eyesight. Adults may not be able to safely drive a car, and working at a computer with distorted vision is just plain painful.
Vision screenings, then, become an important tool to ensure the continued care of these important organs. Many schools and preschool programs offer yearly screenings for students. This way, any child found to have a potential vision problem can visit their family doctor for a corrective prescription. Many parents have been surprised to find that their child has blurry vision, but once the problem is corrected, it can mean a whole new chapter for a child that has, up until that point, found it difficult to see. Adults are also encouraged to make yearly appointments to have their vision checked.
Vision screenings should partner with regular eye exams
Vision screenings are how blurry vision is diagnosed, but they don’t have the comprehensive capabilities of a yearly eye exam with an ophthalmologist. Using specialized tools, your ophthalmologist will look at the back of your eye and may take images of your eyeballs. With the help of diagnostics, they can detect cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, brain tumors that affect the optic nerve and even amblyopia (a disease in children that needs to be treated promptly to avoid loss of eyesight).
When should you see your eye doctor?
Adults should aim for a yearly checkup with their eye doctor. Children, on the other hand, have a schedule recommended by the American Academy of Ophthalmology:
- Newborn babies, especially those born prematurely, should have their eyes checked before leaving the hospital.
- By 6 months of age, a baby should be evaluated as part of a well-child checkup with their pediatrician.
- Starting at one to two years, photo screening devices can be used to detect problems.
- At age three to four years, eyes should be checked for abnormalities.
- By five years and older, a child’s vision should be checked every year.
If your child’s preschool or school participates in vision screenings, you can rest assured they are being tested regularly for any abnormalities. However, you should still follow the previous schedule and make yearly eye exam appointments for your whole family. Furthermore, if you notice the following symptoms in either yourself or you child, it may be time to head to the eye doctor:
- Decreased vision
- Draining or redness of the eye
- Eye pain
- Double vision
- Floaters, or tiny specks that appear to float before your eyes
- Circles surrounding lights, also called “halos”
- Flashes of light
Vision screenings can detect problems that may otherwise go unnoticed. Many times, our children don’t know they have blurry vision because it may be just how they think the world looks, as strange as it sounds. Remember, however, that vision screenings should not be a replacement for eye exams with your family ophthalmologist. Make sure to visit the eye doctor regularly and keep your eyes healthy so you can continue to see the beautiful world around you!