Six Months Not Too Young for First Eye Exam

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), July 24, 2005 | Go to article overview

Six Months Not Too Young for First Eye Exam


Byline: BIRTH TO THREE By Carol Marusich For The Register-Guard

Why do we need a national program to ensure that infants have their vision and eye health examined during the first year of life? Why is early examination of infants important? Why isn't a simple screening at age 3 during a well-baby check at the pediatrician's office enough?

Vision disorders are the fourth most common disability in the United States and the most prevalent handicapping condition in children, according to a recently published Current Ophthalmology survey.

As many as five percent of preschool children, amounting to nearly four million children nationwide, are estimated to have impaired vision, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The organization also says that of children who receive a late diagnosis of amblyopia (lazy eye), as many as one-third have been screened as preschoolers, but the amblyopia was not detected. Of the children who failed a screening, 50 percent of the parents were still unaware of the screening results two months later.

These statistics clearly demonstrate the problems with vision screenings. You need more than a simple screening, especially with infants and toddlers, when even small irregularities can have a profound impact on development.

Research indicates that a child's brain develops fastest during the first three years of life. Sensitive periods in vision development support the need for early intervention, when many conditions are more responsive to treatment and before additional complications arise. Visual impairment can profoundly affect overall development, not just vision development.

Early detection and prevention are the best approach to infant eye care.

There are many infants who have eye health and vision problems without any family history, predisposing condition or event. These, unfortunately, are the children we often see long after the damage is done, because there was no easily detectable sign of trouble.

Among these problems are the undetected amblyopia with no eye turn; high nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism that no one suspected; and even the small tumor way off to the side in the retina that could not be seen during a screening but could be detected during an eye examination where drops are used to open the pupil wide. …

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