Eye doctors say vision screenings important for young children

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Evangeline Wright's mother, Kimberly, is thankful that she had her 4-year old child's checkup at the pediatrician. A routine vision screening alerted the family that Evangeline needed to see an eye doctor.

Pediatric ophthalmologist Allyson Schmitt of Knoxville Pediatric Ophthalmology said young Evangeline had a fairly common eye problem called amblyopia that needs correction. After a thorough examination in her office, she prescribed corrective glasses for the girl.

Dr. Schmitt said there is an important window of time to correct some vision problems in children. "Abnormal visual development in the brain pathways. And that is treatable, up until about age 8. But if that is missed in that time frame, then that can lead to ongoing vision problems that cannot be corrected into adulthood."

Wright feels relieved, "If she hadn't been for the well child checkup and we hadn't been keeping up with those, it could have been who knows how long before we discovered she had any vision problems, probably later on in school when it was already starting to affect her."

Dr. Schmitt said school vision screenings are also important, in case children are not getting those screenings at the pediatrician's office. "I think there should be multiple layers there just in case they don't go to their regular well-child visit or if they miss the day that the school is having the screening. It's nice to have both of those set up."

Pediatric ophthalmologist Christopher O’Brien of Bright Eye Consultants also says it is important to tackle vision problems early in preschool-aged children. "It is critical to identify and treat preschool age children with vision problems, because the visual ares in the brain develop rapidly during the first few years of life. When caught early, most pediatric vision problems can be treated, leading to improved performance in school and development."

O'Brien explained, "Systematic vision screening is the best way to identify at-risk children. Healthy children with with no visual symptoms can generally be screened at their pediatrician’s office. However, children with at-risk conditions, abnormal screening results, delayed development, or visual problems require examination by an eye care specialist equipped to care for children."

Various professional organizations have slightly different recommendations for vision screenings or eye exams at an optometrist's office. All recommend some way of checking on child vision even before they begin school.

Recommendations:

AAPOS on Eye Exam after Failed Vision Screening

American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus

What Is Amblyopia?

American Optometric Association