The Abrahamson Pediatric Eye Institute (APEI), located in the Division of Ophthalmology at Cincinnati Children’s, was founded in 1995 by Cincinnati ophthalmologist and philanthropist Ira Abrahamson, MD. He launched the APEI with the mission of wiping out preventable blindness in children.
In Abrahamson’s early career, he performed eye surgeries in the US Army. Many of his surgeries were on young men whose eyes were either turning in (esotropia) or turning out (exotropia). Abrahamson’s interest in vision-screening was sparked when he realized that, although he may have improved their eye alignment, the results would have been far better if the misalignment (strabismus) had been detected and treated in childhood.
The condition known amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children. If treated, vision can be corrected. If left untreated, amblyopia can cause permanent vision loss and even blindness. Abrahamson wanted to create awareness of early detection of amblyopia by developing and implementing vision-screening programs. The institute began its community outreach vision-screening program in 1996 and has steadily expanded to now screen children in 29 Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky elementary schools and community centers. Abrahamson continues to raise support for the APEI and its vision screening program.
Vision Screening Program
The Division of Pediatric Ophthalmology’s Abrahamson Pediatric Eye Institute (APEI) Vision Screening Program at Cincinnati Children’s educates the public and takes a proactive approach to treating reversible vision loss in children. Trained program volunteers visit Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky schools, health fairs and enrichment programs to examine children’s eyes. Volunteers provide glasses and eye patches where appropriate.
Reversible Vision Loss
The frequency of reversible vision loss in children ranges from 3 percent to 5 percent in North America. Most reversible vision loss is caused by amblyopia (lazy eye), the loss of vision in an eye due to failure to use the eye. A “use it or lose it” phenomenon exists, by which a child may inadvertently allow one of his or eyes to shut down and shut off. Frequently, the end result is failure of that eye to develop good vision. After the age of 6 or 7, vision loss is irreversible, so eye examinations are essential in the early years.
What could cause a child to fail to use an eye?
If one eye is misaligned, the aligned eye will develop good vision and the misaligned eye will not. Occasionally, a very serious or even life-threatening condition, such as an intraocular tumor, can cause vision to fail in an eye.
The Vision Screening Program started in 1996 with 18 Cincinnati schools. Today, screenings are conducted at 29 Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky elementary schools and community centers. The program is aimed only at children under the age of 7 to provide early diagnosis of preventable eye disease. Of more than 3,000 children screened, more than 20 percent have been diagnosed with correctable eye problems and referred to an eye care professional.
Visual screening and eye examinations performed by our program consist of the following tests:
- Visual acuity: recording what the child sees on symbol charts
- Muscle balance: (Hirschberg test) ophthalmologists use a pen light to note where the light reflex hits the cornea. This can reveal a crossed- or wall-eyed condition
- Depth perception
Contact the Vision Screening Program
Carol Weinel, COA
Vision Screening Coordinator
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
3333 Burnet Ave.
Cincinnati, OH 45229-3039