Preventive Care

Why Children Need Vision Screening


Droopy eyelids. Watery eyes. Light sensitivity. Eye-rubbing. Kids may not understand that their day-to-day eye irritation or blurred vision isn’t normal. An annual vision screening could reveal the truth behind the symptoms.

Vision problems are becoming more common in children. One in 20 preschoolers and one in four school-age kids have eye issues.1 According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, there are four signs a child may need a vision screening:

  • Has a shortened attention span
  • Loses the place when reading
  • Avoids reading or doing other close activities
  • Turns the head to the side when looking at an object straight ahead

These behaviors could be indications of:

  • Nearsightedness: or myopia, the result of images being focused in front of the retina rather than on it, so distant objects are blurry
  • Astigmatism: a flaw in the curvature of the eye’s cornea, causing focusing problems

Without early detection and treatment, vision issues can lead to learning difficulties.

A vision screening also reveals damage caused by serious illness.

For example, diabetes, which is becoming more prevalent in children. A study found that the rate of new diagnosed cases of type 1 diabetes in children increased annually by about 1.8% during the years studied, 2002 to 2012. During the same period, the rate of new diagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes increased at 4.8%.2 The increase in type 1 and type 2 diabetes in children is impacting eye health. Is there a correlation between hours spent staring at digital screens, a lack of exercise and eating too many calories? Inactivity, weight gain and high blood sugar gain pose a triple threat to overall wellness, including eye health.

Whether its type 1 or type 2 diabetes, unhealthy levels of blood sugar over prolonged periods of time can damage vessels in the eyes. Damaged vessels prevent the retina from receiving the nutrients needed to maintain vision.3 One result is diabetic retinopathy. If left untreated, diabetes in children can cause blindness.

An eye doctor can diagnose and treat vision issues. (See the resource item below: How to Choose an Eye Doctor). If you or your child is diabetic, be sure to visit your eye care professional for an annual vision screening. Ask the eye doctor to forward the vision screening results to your pediatrician or primary care physician to ensure coordination of care.

In addition to a vision screening, each member of the family can benefit from an annual medical checkup, bloodwork, blood pressure check, dental checkup, and immunizations as appropriate. It’s not uncommon for preventive screenings to detect underlying medical problems in their earlier, more treatable stage.

More resources:
WebMD, “What Eye Problems Look Like” (slide show)
All About Vision, “How to Choose an Eye Doctor”

1 Preventblindness.org, “Children’s Vision Screening”
2 National Institutes of Health, “Rates of New Diagnosed Cases of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes on the Rise Among Children, Teens”
3WebMD, “Diabetic Retinopathy, Topic Overview”

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