What Parents and Guardians Need to Know About Early Vision Screenings

By Luxme Hariharan, MD, MPH, Pediatric Ophthalmologist and Global Health Specialist, Nicklaus Children’s Pediatric Specialists, Nicklaus Children’s HospitalbPublic Relations Chair, Florida Society of Ophthalmology, Miami, Florida

Did you know that the most common cause of permanent vision loss in children under four is also one that can be prevented and treated if found early enough?

Amblyopia, what you might recognize as ‘lazy eye”, is a vision issue that develops around age three, often caused by an uncorrected refractive error, which means that the shape of the eye doesn’t bend light the right way, so children see a blurred image instead of a clear one. In Florida, fewer than 20 percent of preschool children are currently screened for vision problems.

A child’s vision is still developing and connections between their retina and brain are still forming within the first few months of their lives. As children get older, they learn to focus on objects, improve their visual coordination and develop their depth perception.

When children reach the age of three, they can start to develop vision issues that are hard to detect with the naked eye. It’s around this time that amblyopia can develop. The effects of amblyopia on the eye cannot be seen by the naked eye and often times, when children start to visibly show vision issues, it can be too late to save their vision.

The number one thing parents and guardians need to know to help support healthy eye development in their young children is that early prevention is key.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends children get eye screenings starting at 12-months, repeated every one to two years. The Florida Society of Ophthalmology recommends all children aged three to five are regularly screened. Early vision screening is critical in terms of preventative care and can be handled by your child pediatrician or a pediatric ophthalmologist. Treatment, which can include corrective glasses or patching, must begin right away if a child is at risk of developing amblyopia.

Every August, the Florida Society of Ophthalmology (FSO), and it’s charitable arm, The For Eye Care Foundation, Inc. (FECF), launch an awareness campaign to help share valuable information and resources with parents and guardians about the need for early vision screenings at  www.MDEye.org/Amblyopia.

All parents want their children to be safe and live healthy lives. Vision screenings are one simple and easy way to help achieve that for your children.

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