As children grow and progress in school, they face additional visual demands through increased class work and homework. During these formative years, good vision is the key to success in the classroom. Children’s eyes are constantly in use and when vision quality is lacking, educational motivation and participation can suffer as a result.
The most effective way to identify and diagnose childhood optical problems is by scheduling a comprehensive eye exam with your local optometrist. By scheduling regular childhood eye exams, you avoid the adverse effects of visual problems such as headaches, learning problems and self-esteem issues down the line.
Often parents avoid scheduling eye exams because their child passed a vision screening at school. While vision screenings have a place in the school setting, they are not to be taken as an equal substitution for a comprehensive eye exam.
- Screenings last 3 – 5 minutes while a comprehensive eye exam often lasts 30 – 60 minutes. Given the limited amount of time dedicated to a school screenings they are designed to catch obvious symptoms.
- Vision screenings usually only test for nearsightedness (myopia). A comprehensive exam tests for both farsightedness (hyperopia) and vision distortions (astigmatism). These conditions are particularly important for children in a learning environment since these conditions can affect a child’s ability to read.
My child just had a vision screening at school and they passed. Do they still need an eye exam?
Absolutely. The vision screenings at school can be good at detecting issues (especially myopia, or nearsightedness), but many times miss other very important problems. It is very common for school screenings to miss hyperopia, or farsightedness, which causes problems with reading and headaches. We are able to find this fairly easily if we dilate the child. Astigmatism is another problem that often goes undetected at school screenings. Another important part of the exam is to make sure that the eye health is normal (eye pressure, iris, lens, retina, etc.), which only a qualified eye doctor can do. – Dr. May
One of my classmates in Optometry school recently told me about a patient they saw. The child had no vision complaints, but the parents wanted their child to have a comprehensive eye exam. While performing the exam, my classmate noticed the optic nerves were swollen in each eye. This typically indicates elevated pressure around the brain and a MRI was ordered. The child had a brain tumor. How long would that tumor have continued to grow before being detected if an eye exam were not performed? While this is a rare occurrence, it can and does happen. – Dr. Martin
The bottom line is that comprehensive eye exams are much more effective at identifying problems that vision screenings are unable to catch given the obvious time constraints. Check with your insurance provider, because most medical and vision insurance companies cover the cost of a routine eye exam as a preventative care visit.