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The Importance of Eye Screenings for Children Heading Back To School

By Sarah B. Wierda, M.D.

Healthy vision plays an important role in academic success. Vision is closely linked to the learning process and undetected problems often will cause trouble with schoolwork. As your child gets ready to head back to school, consider an annual eye exam as part of your check list.

Often, children don't know they have vision problems because they do not understand when something is wrong. Regular eye screenings can detect vision and eye problems early. Children tend to be more responsive to treatment at a younger age. Best results come from treatment started at age 4, but good results can be achieved if action is taken before 7 years of age.

Why should my child receive an eye screening?

Pediatric eye screening tests for eye-risk abnormalities or risk factors such as:

  • Amblyopia (lazy eye)
  • Refractive error (nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism)
  • Media opacity
  • Ocular alignment

When should my child have his or her eyes screened?

The National Center for Children's Vision and Eye Health and Boys Town Pediatrics, state children should have an eye screening by the time they are 5 years old, to rule out any eye or vision disorders. At any time you think your child is having difficulty with vision, color, or clarity, having recurrent headaches or sensitivity to light, contact your primary provider or pediatric ophthalmologist.

What tools are used for an eye screening?

Pediatric eye screenings are non-invasive and relatively quick.  These two methods are considered best practice for young children.

  • Monocular acuity testing: This is the test that many people associate with eye exams. A child is asked to name or match a series of standardized letters or symbols from 5 feet away.
  • Instrument-based testing: Machines use a series of images and waves to test the eyes for physical and optical abnormalities. Unlike the acuity testing, this test is not dependent on getting a response from the child taking the test, so it is considered especially helpful for young children who may be unable to speak, read or pay attention to a task for more than a couple minutes.

What happens after the eye screening?

If your child's results are normal, you do not need to do anything except continue scheduling annual eye exams with your child's home doctor. If your child's results indicate an abnormality, from near-sightedness to cataracts, he or she will be referred to an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Boys Town Pediatrics wants to make sure your child is ready to reach their highest potential for school with eye screenings.