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New CDC Study Finds Few Children Receive Recommended Vision Screening or Eye Exam; Undiagnosed Vision Problems Can Lead to Permanent Vision Loss, Learning Difficulties


WASHINGTON, May 6 -- A study released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that millions of children do not receive the vision evaluations recommended by top medical organizations, placing them at greater risk for permanent vision loss, as well as physical and emotional difficulties.

The study, published as the lead article in the May 6 edition of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, finds that only one in three children received a vision screening or eye exam before entering kindergarten. Yet, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, all children should receive a vision screening before entering school; the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends either a vision screening or an eye exam in the preschool years.

“What’s startling is that despite our medical guidelines, only a small number of children are actually receiving the preventative, primary care they need to ensure healthy vision,” said ophthalmologist Elaine Hathaway, M.D. “This report should be a wake-up call to both primary care providers and eyecare professionals; we must do better.”

A vision screening is a test administered by a pediatrician, family practitioner, school nurse or lay person which detects visual acuity problems. An eye exam is more comprehensive than a vision screening and measures a number of visual skills that are critical to a child’s healthy vision, such as using both eyes as a team, the ability for the eyes to focus properly when reading a book or viewing a computer, and the ability for the eyes to move properly when reading across a page of print.

The report states that approximately 1.8 million children under the age of 18 (2.5 percent) are blind or have some form of visual impairment. According to Hathaway, many cases of visual impairment could be eliminated simply through more timely diagnosis and treatment.

“Amblyopia is the leading cause of vision loss in young Americans,” she stated, “but vision loss can be avoided with early detection and treatment. If we’re serious about preventing vision loss, we need to make sure that children receive the necessary preventative vision care.”

Undetected and untreated vision problems can also have an impact on a child’s physical and emotional development. According to the report, “visual cues are important to how a child learns to understand and function in the world. 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.”

Aside from taking their child to the eye doctor for an eye exam, there are some warning signs that can alert parents to a potential vision problem. Look for these five telltale signs of poor vision in your child:

1. Squinting, closing or covering one eye; excessive blinking or rubbing of the eyes

2. Dislike and/or avoidance of close work; short attention span; frequent daydreaming

3. Placing the head close to a book when reading; losing place while reading

4. Complaints of headaches, nausea and dizziness; excessive clumsiness

5. Turning or tilting the head to one side

“If parents notice any warning signs, they should take their child to an eye doctor for an eye exam,” said Hathaway. “Being proactive is the best way to make sure your child has healthy vision and is able to develop up to his or her potential.”


The Vision Council of America is a not-for-profit trade organization dedicated to improving America’s vision health through its “Check Yearly. See Clearly.” campaign. For more information on children’s vision, visit


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