My husband and I have both been eyeglass/contact-wearers since childhood, so I’ve always assumed it’s only a matter of time before things start to get a little blurry for our son. But he hasn’t started squinting or complaining of headaches, and he gets a yearly vision screening at school, so I figured all is well for now. No need to take him to an actual eye doctor, right?
But then I came across this article on Motherly, written by an optometrist who says that annual school screenings and well exams with the pediatrician are a good start, but that regular, comprehensive eye exams are important for rapidly developing eyes.
I reached out to the AOA to ask. The organisation’s president, Samuel D. Pierce, who said yes: Take them to an optometrist.
“Children’s eyes go through rapid changes during the first six years of life — a time when routine comprehensive eye exams are critical to ensuring good vision health,” Pierce told me in an email. “Unfortunately, undue reliance on vision screening by pediatricians or other primary care physicians may result in the late detection of vision disorders. The earlier a vision problem is diagnosed and treated, the less it will impact an individual’s quality of life. But many parents aren’t aware and don’t think to take their child to an eye doctor first.”
In particular, myopia (or nearsightedness) has become prevalent in school-aged children, Pierce says. And early intervention can help control its progression. In addition, optometrists look for farsightedness, amblyopia, astigmatism, eye coordination, eye muscle function and focusing abilities.
“Even when done in a pediatrician’s or primary care physician’s office, the scope of vision screening may be limited by the type of testing equipment available,” Pierce says. “Factors such as room lighting, testing distances and maintenance of the testing equipment can also affect test results.”
When kids “pass” their school vision screening, it can give parents a false sense that everything is a-OK, when it may not be. The screening is one tool, but it isn’t enough.
“The information obtained from a vision screening is comparable to the information obtained from a blood pressure measurement. Your blood pressure may be in normal range, but that doesn’t mean that you do not have other health problems,” Pierce says. “It’s merely a single measure of one aspect of your overall health. Just like you need a complete physical to evaluate your total health, only a comprehensive eye and vision examination can evaluate your overall eye health and vision status.”
Off to the eye doctor we go! Better late than never, right?