In honor of Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, vision screenings and eye exams for children are more important than you think. Thought the vision system is not fully formed in babies or young children, according to the American Academy™ of Ophthalmology reports that equal input from both eyes is necessary for the brain’s vision centers to develop normal. If they do not develop normally, “the child’s eyes cannot send clear images to the brain and his or her vision may become limited in ways that cannot be corrected later in life.”
Types of Vision Screenings
Vision screenings are eye tests that identify visual impairments and eye conditions that can lead to more damaging and permanent issues, like vision loss. The object of the test varies, as there are a number of methods used to screen the eyes.
The first is a physical inspection of the eye, pupils and red reflex. “An examiner uses a flashlight to inspect the eyes for abnormality of shape or structure and to detect irregularity in pupil shape.”
Photoscreening is a special camera that uses the red reflex (a reflection from the lining of the inside of the eye that causes the pupil to look red in photographs), to help identify risk factors for poor vision.
A corneal light reflex test can be performed using a penlight. The child focuses on the penlight and the examiner watches the position of the light reflection from cornea of the eye.
Another common test is a cover test, which detects misalignment of the eyes.
A visual acuity test should be performed on children three years or older. It uses a modified adult eye chart with the child being tested 10 feet away. “Symbols and shapes are used in place of letters. Testing with both eyes open initially is performed before carefully covering one eye at a time with a patch to test each eye separately.”
When should you have your child’s vision tested?
According to the American Academy™ of Ophthalmology, it is essential to check your child’s vision when they are first born and again during infancy, preschool and school years. The earlier a vision problem is detected, the better the chance to obtain maximum vision through appropriate treatment.
Vision Screening vs. an Eye Exam
A vision screening is an effective test performed periodically through childhood. “Only about 2 to 4% of children have an eye problem that requires treatment, so it’s not practical to perform a comprehensive eye examination on every child.” The American Academy™ of Ophthalmology advises parents to seek a comprehensive eye exam if:
- Their child fails a vision screening.
- Vision screening is inconclusive or cannot be performed.
- Referred by a pediatrician or school nurse.
- Their child has a vision complaint of observed abnormal visual behavior, or is at risk of developing eye problems. Children with medical conditions or a family history of cataracts or glaucoma are at higher risk for developing pediatric eye products.
- Their child has a learning disability, developmental delay, neuropsychological condition or behavioral issue.
Supplements for Eye Health
Many eye health vitamins are extremely beneficial for ocular and vision health. Several human clinical trials have indicated that supplementing with a combination of specific, powerful antioxidants, minerals and herbal constituents can have a very positive effect on eye and vision health and overall function.
During our youth, there is a hearty supply of available antioxidants to help protect the eyes – organs which consist of many smaller, delicate organs – from damaging effects of an unstable type of oxygen called free radicals. As we age, the pool of available antioxidants decreases, exposing the eyes to the harmful impact of these free radicals. As a natural reaction to protect itself, the eye is very selective in what it allows inside the cells. The activity of vision production alone releases a large volume of free radicals that can contribute to ocular aging. Many scientific studies have shown the benefits of eye health supplements to support visual acuity and stamina.
According to former Director of Nutrition for InVite Health, Nicole Crane, BTS, NP, there are select vitamins and supplements that have been shown to support healthy vision.