Joint VSP/PBA Survey Finds Most Kids Under Six Have Never Had Eye Exams

August 13, 2009 12:24 AM
RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif. —A new survey of nearly 1,500 participants—co-sponsored by VSP Vision Care and Prevent Blindness America—indicates that more than one in five 12- to 17-year-olds have difficulty seeing the classroom blackboard, with more than 25 percent complaining of headaches. One possible reason? According to the survey, almost two-thirds (66 percent) of children under the age of six have never had an eye exam by an eye doctor.

These complaints about vision problems and headaches were noted even though 45 percent of the children in this age group wear some type of prescription eyewear, the survey indicates.

Additional survey findings show that one in four six- to 11-year-olds wears prescription glasses, and that the prevalence of common eye conditions, as reported by parents, increases with the child’s age.

“The survey provides a clear example of why regular eye exams are so important as children progress in school.” said Gary Brooks, VSP Vision Care’s president. “Most parents probably assume once a prescription is given, there isn’t a need for further follow-up. However, the survey results reinforce the need for regular eye exams as kids’ eyes continue to change and adapt.”

PBA recommends that all children have their vision checked at infancy and regularly throughout childhood, and that if a child fails a vision screening, or if there is any concern of an eye or vision problem, he or she should be referred for a complete eye exam by an eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist).

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Association for the Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus all recommend a combination of primary care doctor eye evaluations and vision screenings with a referral for a complete eye exam by an eye doctor, according to VSP. The American Optometric Association recommends that all children have a complete eye exam by an eye doctor at ages six months, three years and five years, and that between six and 18, children should visit an eye doctor at least every two years, or more if recommended by an eyecare practitioner.

“The good news is that most common eye problems in older children, including myopia, can be effectively treated if diagnosed early,” said Hugh R. Parry, PBA’s president and chief executive officer. “We urge all parents and caregivers to have their child’s vision checked regularly to promote a lifetime of healthy vision.”

The VSP/PBS Consumer Eyewear and Eyecare Survey, conducted in May, questioned 1,499 U.S. residents aged 18 and older.