Parenting

Vision Screenings Protect The Apple of Your Eye

October 13, 2009



(NewsUSA) – School-age children receive regular vision
screenings, but childhood blindness can start long before elementary school. Early detection makes
treatments more effective, so parents should have their children's vision checked in
preschool.

Ambylopia, or lazy eye, is one of the most common disorders detected in young
children. Lazy eye, which occurs when one eye is significantly stronger than the other, affects two
to three of every 100 children. If left untreated, the weaker eye tends to wander inward or
outward, leading to permanent vision impairment.

Any factor that causes eyes to blur, cross or turn out can lead to lazy eye. The
most common cause is strabismus, a muscle imbalance that prevents eyes from coordinating their
movements. Congenital problems, like cataracts or oddly shaped eyes, can also lead to lazy eye.

Most of the time, conservative treatments like corrective eyewear, eye patches or eye drops
can fix lazy eye. Droopy eyes, crossed eyes or eyes that are fixed outward might require surgical
correction. Treatments typically start improving vision after a few weeks or months — if the
problem is caught early in life.

Some programs aim to screen young children for vision problems. For example, Lions
Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) established a preschool vision screening program in 1999.
Trained volunteers screen children ages one through five. If they see a problem, the volunteers
refer the child to an eye doctor.

So far, Lions volunteers have screened 1 million children in the United States and Taiwan.
Volunteers refer about 6 percent of the children they see. Of those, approximately 65 percent have
a vision disorder that can cause lazy eye.

Parents need to schedule eye screenings. Newborns should have their eyes examined at every
wellness visit. Children with a family history of vision impairment, either childhood or adult,
should see an eye specialist by 18 months. By age 3, all children should see an eye specialist on a
regular basis.

For more information, visit www.lionsclubs.org.

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