By: Dr. Amber Teten – Chesapeake Pediatric Eye Doctor
As parents, we want the best for our children. One of the most important things we can do for them is to ensure they are healthy, including their eyesight. Schools often provide vision screenings as part of their routine health checks, but is this enough to ensure your child’s eyes are healthy? Dr. Teten, a pediatric eye doctor, will discuss why passing a school vision screening may not be sufficient and why your child should have a comprehensive eye exam.
School Vision Screenings
School vision screenings are an essential part of a child’s health assessment. They are designed to identify children with difficulty seeing objects clearly at a distance or up close. These screenings are typically conducted by a school nurse or trained staff member using a standardized chart, such as the Snellen chart. Children are asked to read letters or symbols from a distance, and their ability is recorded.
School vision screenings are beneficial because they are easily accessible and can identify children needing further evaluation by a pediatric eye doctor. A child may be referred for a comprehensive eye exam if they do not pass their vision screening. This can help detect vision problems early on and ensure that children receive the necessary treatment to improve their visual health.
Limitations of Vision Screenings
One of the main reasons a child who passes their school vision screening still needs an eye exam is because of the limitations of the screening itself. Vision screenings are designed to quickly identify children with difficulty seeing objects clearly at a distance or close up. However, they are not comprehensive eye exams and are not intended to detect all possible vision problems.
One of the limitations of vision screenings is that they only test for visual acuity or the sharpness of vision. They do not test for other important aspects of vision, such as eye coordination, eye teaming, or depth perception. These conditions can affect a child’s ability to learn, read, and play sports. They may not be detected by a standard vision screening.
Another limitation of vision screenings is the environment in which they are conducted. Schools typically perform vision screenings in non-clinical settings like a hallway or gymnasium. These settings could be better for conducting a thorough eye exam, as they may have poor lighting or distractions that can affect the accuracy of the test. In addition, some children may feel self-conscious or anxious in these settings, which can also affect the screening results.
Finally, children who pass a vision screening may still have undetected vision problems. This is because vision screenings only test for a limited number of conditions and do not provide a complete assessment of a child’s visual health. Undiagnosed vision problems can seriously affect a child’s academic performance, social development, and overall quality of life.
Comprehensive Eye Exams
Comprehensive eye exams are essential for maintaining a child’s visual health, even if they pass their school vision screening. Unlike vision screenings, comprehensive eye exams are performed by a qualified pediatric eye doctor, like Dr. Teten, in a clinical setting. They are designed to assess a child’s visual health in greater detail. A comprehensive eye exam typically includes tests to evaluate visual acuity, eye tracking, eye teaming, depth perception, and color vision.
During a comprehensive eye exam, Dr. Teten will also evaluate the overall health of your child’s eyes, checking for any signs of abnormalities or disease. This can include checking the alignment of the eyes, assessing the function of the pupils and iris, and examining the front and back of the eye.
Comprehensive eye exams can also detect a wide range of eye conditions that may not be detected during a vision screening. This can include nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness, astigmatism, amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (eye turn), and other eye conditions that can have serious consequences if left untreated.
In addition, regular comprehensive eye exams are recommended because your child’s vision can change over time, especially during periods of rapid growth and development. By scheduling regular eye exams with Dr. Teten, parents can ensure that their child’s visual health is closely monitored and any potential problems are addressed in a timely manner.
When to Schedule an Eye Exam
As a pediatric eye doctor, Dr. Teten recommends scheduling a child’s first comprehensive eye exam between 6 months and 1 year. This exam will assess your child’s visual development and ensure their eyes are healthy. After this initial exam, children should have comprehensive eye exams at age two, followed by having an eye exam every year or more frequently if they have a family history of eye problems or have been diagnosed with a vision problem.
In addition, parents should schedule an eye exam for their child if they notice any of the following signs or symptoms:
- Frequent eye rubbing or blinking
- Difficulty focusing or maintaining attention
- Squinting or closing one eye
- Tilting the head or covering one eye
- Sensitivity to light
- Eye redness or discharge
- Chronic headaches or migraines
- Poor academic performance
While school vision screenings are important, they are not a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam with a pediatric eye doctor like Dr. Teten. Vision screenings have limitations and may not detect all possible vision problems, which can seriously affect a child’s academic performance and quality of life. On the other hand, comprehensive eye exams thoroughly assess your child’s visual health. They can detect a wide range of eye conditions. Dr. Teten recommends scheduling a child’s first comprehensive eye exam between 6 months and 1 year, then at age two; after that, your child should have a comprehensive eye exam every year. However, parents should schedule an eye exam for their child if they notice any signs or symptoms of vision problems. By prioritizing your child’s eye health and scheduling regular eye exams, you can ensure they have the best possible vision and eye health.
Dr. Teten encourages parents to bring their children in for regular eye exams to ensure their eyes are healthy and their vision is properly developing. Call the Navigation Eye Care team at 757-529-6889 or schedule an appointment online. We are fully equipped and prepared to care for you and your family.