SOURCE: American Optometric Association

American Optometric Association

July 09, 2015 15:24 ET

National Association of Eye Doctors Stresses the Importance of Annual Comprehensive Eye Exams for Children

ST. LOUIS, MO--(Marketwired - Jul 9, 2015) - It's estimated that one in 10 children is at risk from an undiagnosed eye or vision problem which, if left untreated, can lead to difficulties in school or even permanent vision loss later in life. The American Optometric Association (AOA) advocates for comprehensive eye exams for all children, beginning in infancy, and pledges to intensify efforts to ensure that parents, caregivers and teachers understand that there is no substitute for an eye exam by an eye doctor. 

According to the AOA's 2015 American Eye-Q® survey, an overwhelming number of parents (89 percent) mistakenly believe that vision screenings, offered in schools and at pediatricians' offices, are an effective way to detect vision problems in infants and children. Screenings, though, only test distance vision. In reality, the vision skills needed for successful reading and learning are much more complex. A child who can see 20/20 can still have a vision problem.

Research shows that simple vision screenings miss one-third of all eye and vision problems in infants and children, problems that can and should be diagnosed, treated and corrected as early as possible. Optometrists have the clinical background, expertise and appropriate tools to detect eye and vision disorders as well as ensure the health of children's eyes.

During a comprehensive eye exam, optometrists perform several non-invasive tests that evaluate whether each eye is seeing clearly and if prescription lenses are needed, how well the eyes focus, move and work together, and overall eye health. Additionally, eye dilation is extremely important since it allows optometrists to have a better view of the back of the eye, assisting in early diagnosis of diseases and disorders. Eye and vision conditions such as strabismus (crossed-eyes), amblyopia (lazy eye), nearsightedness and farsightedness can impair a child's ability to reach important developmental milestones, create lifelong learning and social problems and threaten sight. 

Even if a child isn't showing any signs of problems, there could still be issues with their vision. The AOA recommends that every child have an eye exam by an optometrist soon after six months of age, again before age three and annually thereafter. Children now have the benefit of yearly comprehensive eye exams through age 18 thanks to the Pediatric Essential Health Benefit in the Affordable Care Act. 

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