NEI Study:  Vision screenings still get failing grade

Connecticut Association of Optometrists

Reprinted with permission from CAO for Vision First Foundation

A major National Institutes of Health study has found that common vision screenings are failing to identify large numbers of children with vision problems needing correction. The study was published in the August, 2005 edition of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science.

"This study makes it clear why children need a comprehensive vision examination before starting school,” said Joel Zaba, OD, MA. "The study shows that just 37 percent to 68 percent of vision problems are detected by vision screening,” said Zaba, an optometrist and child development expert. “Our children simply deserve better odds when dealing with one of the most important tools they have for learning.”

The Vision in Preschoolers (VIP) study sought to compare the effectiveness of nurses and laypersons in administering preschool vision screening. Although it is the most commonly used method of identifying children with vision problems, vision screening is far less comprehensive and far less effective than an eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

While the study found little variance in the performance of nurses and laypersons, both groups failed to identify large numbers of children with problems. The worst performing tests, for example, caught just 37 percent of children with a problem, the best just 68 percent.

Screening Tool Children Caught    Nurses     Laypersons
Retinomax Autorefractor                    68%            62%
SureSight Vision Screener                 64%            64%
Linear Lea Symbols                           49%            37%
Stereo Smile                                      45%            40%

Amblyopia is the leading cause of vision loss in young Americans, affecting 500,000 preschoolers. Early treatment is critical if vision loss is to be avoided.

Undiagnosed vision problems can also cause problems in school. According to the CDC, “impaired vision can affect a child’s cognitive, emotional, neurologic and physical development by potentially limiting the range of experiences and kinds of information to which the child is exposed.”


Reprinted with permission from the Connecticut Association of Optometrists by Vision First Foundation.  Copyright © 2005-2007 Connecticut Association of Optometrists.  All rights reserved.