SOURCE: Texas State Optical Network

August 04, 2008 02:35 ET

Eye Surprise: School Screenings Miss 95% of Kids' Vision Problems, Say Experts

Back-to-School Tips for Good Moms Who Trust the 'E-Chart'... a Little Too Much

HOUSTON, TX--(Marketwire - August 4, 2008) - Now is the time when kids get back to the business of books, buses, blackboards and... E-Charts. E-Charts?

You remember the E-Chart, that familiar, school-administered eye test that mothers have trusted for generations to help spot their kids' vision problems. Take heed, Mom. Today's eye doctors say the E-Chart isn't enough.

Experts say parents who rely only on the school's screening assessment are putting their faith in a diagnostic tool that reveals only part of the story. The American Foundation for Vision Awareness says the test misses 95% of the vision problems children experience.

"The E-Chart is a good place to start, but no parent should stop there," says David Lopez, the therapeutic optometrist and glaucoma specialist who serves as chairman of the board of Texas State Optical (TSO), a network of more than 100 doctor-owned eye care practices. The Snellen eye chart -- the clinical name for the ubiquitous black and white sign with the big E in the middle -- identifies only the most obvious problems, says Lopez. "The Snellen tool will point to children who can't read the blackboard, but there are many other things that it won't pick up."

The consequence of not knowing, he says, can mean trouble. "Behavior problems arise and some kids withdraw socially. Others are misdiagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder."

Lopez says warning signs of eyesight problems include:

--  Squinting, excessive blinking, and frequent rubbing of the eyes
--  Short attention span
--  Reading frustration or avoidance
--  Frequent headaches
--  Poor hand-eye coordination or noticeable difficulty playing sports
--  Sitting close to the television or reading books close to the face
--  Turning their head sideways to look at objects
    

He offers parents these preventive tips:

1. SCHEDULE A REGULAR EYE EXAM FOR YOUR CHILDREN WITH AN EYE CARE PROFESSIONAL.

Vision changes over time and children should get eye exams -- not just school screenings -- every year, even if there are no problems.

2. REVIEW YOUR FAMILY'S HEALTH HISTORY.

Genetics count. If someone in the family has suffered from misaligned eyes, childhood cataracts, glaucoma or another serious eye disease, it's even more important to see an eye care professional.

3. PROTECT YOUR KIDS' EYES.

More than 40,000 eye injuries occur every year during sports activities and almost all are preventable. Learn about eye protection options like special lenses and goggles, and arm your kids with impact-resistant sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection. Think of them as sunscreen and armor for the eyes.

4. CHECK IN WITH THE TEACHER.

Teachers notice signs and symptoms that many parents miss. They can often spot an eye problem early. Ask your child's teacher to alert you to anything unusual.

RELATED EVENT, NOTE TO EDITOR -- September is "Children's Eye Health and Safety Month"

Source: David Lopez, O.D., chairman of the board of Texas State Optical (TSO). Founded in 1936, TSO (www.tso.com) is a Houston-based organization comprised of more than 100 doctor-owned and operated eye care practices in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

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