Vision screening

Early detection of vision problems can promote a child’s health and well being. Poor vision in children can interfere with their coordination and developmental skills. If one eye does not see as well as the other, the child will use only the good eye, leading to a loss of the ability of the brain to use visual signals from the weak eye. If this problem isn’t corrected by age 5 or so, the child will become permanently blind in the weak eye. Unless the child has vision screening, the condition will not be detected, since the child sees well with the good eye.

Early detection of this type of vision problem is the only way to prevent permanent loss of vision in the weaker eye. For other vision problems, early detection can provide the opportunity to correct the problem earlier, more completely, and at a reduced expense.

Professional Eye Examination

All children should have a formal vision screening examination that checks how well each eye sees by 3 to 4 years of age. These examinations can be provided by a:

  • pediatrician
  • family practitioner
  • nurse practitioner
  • vision specialist
  • a certified vision screener who uses national guidelines for the procedure

Watch for Signs of Eye Problems

Parents and child care providers should watch children for signs of eye problems. Look for the following signs:

  • Eyes:
    • Are they watery?
    • Do they have discharge (e.g. colored fluid coming from the eye) ?
    • Do both eyes always look in the same direction? Do the eyes cross?
    • Are they red?
    • Are they sensitive to light?
  • Eyelids:
    • Do they have crusts (solid material around eye) on lids or among eyelashes?
    • Are they red?
    • Do they have repeated sties or swelling?
  • Behavior:
    • Does the child rub his or her eyes repeatedly?
    • Does the child complain of dizziness, headaches, or nausea?
    • Does the child attempt to brush away blur?
    • Does the child have itchy, burning, or scratchy eyes?
    • Does the child wrinkle or contort his face or body, thrust his head forward, squint or widen his eyes when looking at distant objects?
    • Does the child blink excessively?
    • Does the child hold books too close or too far from his eyes?
    • Does the child become inattentive during visual tasks?
    • Does the child shut or cover one eye and tilt his head?
    • Do eyes appear to cross or wander, especially when tired?
    • Is the child having more difficulty with school than usual?
    • Does the child have poor hand to eye coordination?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, the child should be referred to a pediatrician or a pediatric ophthalmologist.