The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree children should have vision screening at several important intervals of growth from birth to adulthood. The two organizations recommend children should have vision screening during the following growth stages:
1. Newborn infants - screened before leaving the hospital
2. Six months of age
3. Three to four years of age
4. Five years of age- screened at least every two years and yearly if dealing with a vision issue
The vision screening includes the overall health of the eyes, the developmental growth of each eye, the alignment of the eyes and positive developmental signs of vision.
What specific conditions should the vision screening focus on at each level of testing?
1. A newborn vision screening by a Pediatrician includes testing for infection, eyelid abnormalities, signs of tear duct issues and cataracts. The initial vision screening is very important especially if infant is born premature and experienced multiple health issues requiring oxygen treatment for extended periods. The training center for visually impaired individuals I attended maintained an enrollment of 40 students. Fifteen percent of the students in my class experienced blindness due to prolonged oxygen use because of a premature birth.
2. During the six months screening, an eye doctor examines the overall health of the eyes, development of the surface of the eyes and alignment checking for turned or crossed eyes.
3. When a child reaches the age of three or four the child needs a vision screening that measures the vision acuity for each eye. The family history of the child’s parents affects the type of vision screening needed. The eye doctor should perform tests specific to family history of vision issues.
4. Children five years and older need vision testing every two years unless dealing with a vision condition. The most common vision issue for school age children to adults is myopia (nearsightedness that is a genetic condition transferred from parent to child. Children experiencing minor vision issues do not always mention the problem (may not understand they have a vision problem) therefore, yearly eye exams provide opportunities to discover correctable problems in the early stages of development. A parent can test the vision of a three or four year old child at home. See article titled: “Easy home eye exam for children” in the related articles link.
Twelve universal signs and symptoms indicating a vision problem for children of all ages:
1. Misaligned eyes – eye turned in or out, crossed eyes or the eyes do not focus together
2. Gray or white coloration in the pupil of the eye – early sign of cataracts
3. Fluttering eyes – movement up, down, or from side to side
4. Swollen or bulging look to the eyes
5. Complaints from child of eyes burning or itching with pain
6. Consistent irritating red coloration of the eyes
7. Discharge or crust build-up in either eye
8. Persistent watering of the eyes
9. Low hanging or drooping of the eyelid
10. Frequent rubbing of the eyes
11. Bright light sensitivity
12. Noticeable or abnormal change in eye appearance
A vision screening is the most effective method for identifying vision problems in children and early detection is the best defense against vision loss.