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A vision screening is NOT an eye exam

As school is back in session, remember that vision screenings are not a replacement for a comprehensive eye examination.

While vision screenings are valuable and they may catch vision problems in children who haven’t had eye exams yet, always keep in mind that a vision screening is a limited process and is indeed only a screening. They cannot be used to diagnose an eye or vision problem and it is possible for a screening to miss problems.

What is a vision screening?

The purpose of a vision screening is to indicate a potential need for further evaluation. Just because you “pass” a vision screening does not mean there aren’t any problems. It just means that the screening did not indicate a problem.

Most vision screenings are done in-school or at the pediatrician’s office and they are often completed by volunteers; not doctors. Additionally, a vision screening will not check the health of the eye. Usually only a couple components of vision are checked, such as visual acuity.

As another example, what if the vision screening didn’t check color vision and your child didn’t know he or she had a color deficiency? While it would most likely not affect them personally, it is very important for future career choices. There are certain careers, including commercial pilots, that cannot be done if a color deficiency is present.

Why should my child have an eye exam instead?

  • According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), screenings may miss as many as 60% of children who have a vision problem.
  • According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), over 60% of children didn’t even get their vision screened at the pediatrician’s office.
  • According to the American Public Health Association (APHA), approximately 10% of pre-school children have an eye or vision problem. Other sources have indicated up to 25% of students in kindergarten through 6th grade have a visual problem.

By bringing your child in for an eye exam, you can ensure that they will not be a statistic; especially when up to 80% of what a child learns in school is visual. In addition, many children don’t complain about vision problems because they don’t know any better. If they have (for example) always seen blurry, they just assume everyone else sees the same way they do.

At what age should eye exams be done?

The first eye exam should be conducted at 6 months of age at no cost through the InfantSEE program. As long as no problems are detected, then the next eye examination should be around age 3. Again, as long as no problems are detected, then the next exam would be at age 5 or before they start kindergarten. And then every year annually afterward.


Top image property of Vision Source Mandan and is not to be used without written permission.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.