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Why Vision Screenings Are Not a Replacement for an Eye Exam


Ten million school children in America have vision conditions that can impact learning. Many parents rely on vision screenings in school to check for eye problems, but, while those screenings are good, they're not good enough. In fact, vision screenings overlook plenty of eye problems that can negatively affect your child’s health.


Here’s what vision screenings cover, what they leave out, and what issues you could be missing without the additional support of a comprehensive eye exam.


What Are Vision Screenings


A vision screening is a relatively short examination that can indicate the presence of a vision problem or a potential vision problem. These screenings are facilitated by a school nurse who checks distance vision, which is how well a child can read from a chart 20 feet away.


However, vision screenings do not check for the following basic vision issues:

  • Farsightedness

  • Color blindness

  • Eye coordination, or binocular vision dysfunction

  • Lazy eye

Most importantly, a vision screening cannot diagnose exactly what is wrong with your eyes. Instead, it can indicate that you should make an appointment with an optometrist for a more comprehensive eye examination.


Limitations of Vision Screenings


The main issue of relying on vision screenings are their limitations. Some factors that can limit their effectiveness in finding vision problems are:

  • Limited Testing: Many vision screenings test only for distance visual acuity. While the ability to see clearly in the distance is important, it does not indicate how well the eyes focus up close or work together. It also does not give any information about the health of the eyes.

  • Nonspecific Training: Often, a nurse or volunteers who have little eye care training conduct a vision screening. While well-intentioned, these individuals do not have the knowledge to fully assess screening results.

  • Inadequate Equipment: The scope of vision screening is severely limited by the type of testing equipment available. Factors such as room lighting, testing distances, and event the maintenance schedule of the equipment can affect test results.

While visions screens are an important part of preventative care, due to these limitations, they should not be used as a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam.


Dangers of Relying Only On Vision Screenings


The dangers of using a vision screening as a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam are:

  • Learning Difficulties: Kids who don’t see well, don’t learn well. If a child is having problems in the classroom, rule one is get them to an eye doctor for a complete eye exam. A condition that was missed in a screening often results in learning difficulties.

  • Lifelong Vision Loss: If a vision problem goes undiagnosed and untreated it can, in some cases, result in lifelong vision loss. Even children who pass a vision screening could still have an eye health or vision problem. Professional examinations are the only effective way to confirm or rule out any eye disease or vision problem.

  • False Positives: Without the support of a comprehensive eye exam, vision screenings lead to a higher false-positive rate in the younger children, which could lead to overdiagnosis or unnecessary treatment.

Information obtained from a vision screening is similar to measuring blood pressure. Blood pressure in the normal range doesn’t rule out other health problems. Likewise, vision screenings may detect possible issues, but only a comprehensive eye examination can diagnosis overall eye health and vision.


Schedule Your Child’s Comprehensive Eye Exam Today


A yearly eye exam in children is a must. Their eyes can change so quickly, and before you know it, their performance in school can suffer. Scheduling annual appointments with the eye doctor just as important as yearly medical checkups.


Contact our offices at (952) 944-2792 or through our online form and make sure your child is getting the eye care they deserve!