December 1, 2017

Vision Screenings vs Eye Exams

Is it really that important to have routine eye exams? What if you just passed a vision screening at work or school — do you still need an eye exam?

Vision Screenings Are Not Eye Exams

In many cases, vision screenings are nothing more than a visual acuity test where you’re asked to identify the smallest letters you can on a vision chart across the room.

  • Vision screenings typically are designed to only detect subnormal visual acuity and major vision problems — as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. They generally are ineffective for detecting more subtle vision problems and potentially sight-robbing eye diseases.

  • Eye exams, on the other hand, are performed by licensed eye doctors (an optometrist or ophthalmologist) and evaluate not only your visual acuity, but also the complete health of your eyes, from front to back — including checking for early signs of serious eye problems such as glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and detached retina.

Kids Need Eye Exams

Children’s Vision Screenings Are Helpful — But Kids Need Eye Exams, Too. Good vision is essential for children to reach their full academic potential. It’s been widely stated that roughly 80 percent of what children learn in school is presented visually, and vision problems can have a profound effect on learning.

Eye check up

Also, children are using computers and other digital devices much more extensively and start using these devices at a much younger age than children in the past. The illuminated screens of these modern devices tend to be more visually demanding than books and other printed text.

Vision screenings are helpful to identify children who already have significant myopia, but screenings aren’t sensitive or thorough enough to identify all children who have vision problems that can affect their learning.

Passing A Vision Screening Doesn’t Mean Your Child’s Vision Is Perfect

In fact, a number of studies have identified significant challenges and shortcomings of children’s vision screenings, including:

  • Children with significant learning-related vision problems being able to pass simple school vision screenings
  • Poor consistency of screening results among different volunteers conducting the testing
  • Parents being unaware their child failed a vision screening
  • Lack of follow-up to make sure children who fail screening actually have an eye exam