Survey Reveals Lack of Knowledge When it Comes to Caring for Infants’ Eyes
Vision disorders are the fourth most common disability in the United States and the most prevalent impairing conditions during childhood. However, according to the American Optometric Association’s 2014 American Eye-Q survey, only 19 percent of parents know that a child should have their first comprehensive eye assessment by an eye doctor between 6 and 12 months of age. Visual development is most dramatic at that stage, making it a critical time to detect and treat eye and vision problems before conditions worsen or cause developmental delays.
To address this need and better educate parents and caregivers, Optometry Cares – The AOA Foundation administers the InfantSEE program, a no-cost public health program to provide professional eye care for infants nationwide. Through InfantSEE, optometrists provide a one-time, comprehensive eye assessment to infants in their first year of life, offering early detection of potential eye and vision problems at no cost, regardless of income.
“Even if a child isn’t showing any signs or symptoms of problems, there could still be issues with their vision,” says Dr. Glen Steele, chair of the InfantSEE Committee. “If it’s not detected and treated early, a number of eye and vision conditions can impair an infant’s ability to reach important developmental milestones, create lifelong learning and social problems and even threaten sight.”
InfantSEE assessments are complementary to the routine well-care exams a baby receives from a pediatrician or family physician. Optometrists have the training to identify areas of risk that are critical to vision development and the tools to identify conditions that might not be detected in a routine pediatric wellness exam. In some cases, conditions may need to be monitored, immediately treated or referred to a pediatric eye specialist.
Even without verbal communication from an infant, InfantSEE doctors use specialized tests and are able to detect various eye and vision conditions including nearsightedness, farsightedness, amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (crossed eyes) and even cancerous tumors. According to the American Eye-Q survey, 36 percent of parents are unaware these issues can be detected in an infant and only 10 percent of parents know it’s safe to dilate an infant’s eyes to help detect these serious issues.
The AOA recommends that infants have an InfantSEE assessment before their first birthday. Unless problems are detected, the next exam should be at age 3, again before entering school and then yearly.
To locate a participating InfantSEE provider or to learn more information about the program, visit infantsee.org.