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Visual Screening and Eye Examinations

What Are Visual Screenings and Eye Examinations?

Newborn babies start with wonderful abilities to see and hear. Their vision is not as sharp as that of an adult, but newborn babies have vision that adapts as they grow. They begin by showing responses to adult faces in the earliest days of life. Babies also have amazing responses to sounds. They startle with loud noises and become quiet to their parent’s voice.

Most children grow up to have normal vision and healthy eyes. But sometimes babies and young children can have problems with vision. These problems may be due to birth defects or may be caused by the effects of prematurity and/or other diseases.

Since many eye problems occur at an early age, it is important that your child receives proper eye care. Eye care includes visual screening tests and comprehensive eye exams. Vision problems can lead to developmental problems, learning disabilities and possibly permanent loss of vision. Monitoring your child's ability to see is an important part of the health of your growing child.

Facts about Vision Problems

  • About two to four percent of children worldwide suffer from amblyopia (decreased vision development).
  • About five to 10 percent of preschoolers have some form of visual impairment.
  • About 10 percent of school-aged children have vision problems.
  • Without proper screening, vision problems may not be detected, and permanent decrease or loss of vision may occur.

Risk Factors for Problems with Vision

Some factors that may increase your child’s risk of having problems with their vision are:

  • Maternal infections during pregnancy
  • Maternal drug use
  • Neurological, developmental, or genetic disorders that may include:
    • Down syndrome
    • Neurofibromatosis
    • Stickler syndrome
    • Congenital heart disease
  • Premature birth
  • Problems with the actual structure of the eye present at birth
  • Family history of vision problems that may include:
    • Strabismus (eye turn in or out)
    • Amblyopia
    • Retinal disease
    • Congenital cataracts
  • Hearing problems
  • Trauma to the eye

Visual Screenings

Your child will likely have vision screenings with their pediatrician before they are old enough for preschool. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends instrument-based screenings as early as one year old. This should continue until your child can read the eye chart.

Once your child is in school, they will get vision screenings, at school. This usually happens every year or at certain grade levels.

If your child fails a vision screening, they should be referred to a pediatric ophthalmologist or optometrist for a complete eye exam.

Last Updated 04/2021

Reviewed By Kelsey Mach, OD, FAAO
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The ophthalmology program at Cincinnati Children's is one of the largest centers in the nation for the care of children’s eyes, treating everything from common to very rare conditions.

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