Infant Eye Exam
One-time, no-cost InfantSEE® assessments are available by appointment throughout the year in Ohio and across the country for infants between six and 12 months of age. For more information and to locate an optometrist participating in the InfantSEE® program near you, visit www.InfantSEE.org or call toll free 888-396-EYES (3937).
Why is it so important for infants to have an eye assessment in their first year of life?
Experts agree that visual development is most dramatic between six and 12 months of age and that early detection and treatment of potential eye and vision problems can prevent and help reduce the threat of serious vision impairments. Therefore, it is extremely important that an infant’s vision is assessed in their first year of life by an eye care professional.
What should parents know about the problems that can be detected at an early age, and why is the assessment so important?
Most people don’t know that one in 10 infants is at risk from undiagnosed eye and vision problems, which, if undetected, could lead to permanent vision impairment, and in rare cases, life-threatening health risks. For example, it is not well known that amblyopia – often referred to as lazy eye – is a leading cause of vision loss in people younger than 45, will affect one in 30 children – and if not diagnosed and treated early, can lead to permanent vision impairment.
Why should parents bring their children in for an InfantSEE® assessment?
Just as parents would take a child to a dentist to help prevent cavities and future dental problems, parents should take their child to an eye and vision care specialist to help prevent potential eye and vision problems. Both dentist and optometrist visits are as necessary as the routine well-care exams a baby receives at the pediatrician’s office.
What will the optometrist test for during an InfantSEE® assessment?
During an assessment the optometrist will determine if a baby’s eyes and vision are developing properly and identify the need for intervention when necessary. Although problems are not common, it is important to identify children who are potentially at risk at this stage. Vision development and eye health problems can be more easily corrected if treatment is started early.
After parents bring their child for an assessment, how often will they need to keep coming back for follow-up visits?
The American Optometric Association recommends infants having their first assessment between six and 12 months of age, then again at age three and again before starting kindergarten. Adults should have yearly eye exams, or as recommended by an eye doctor.
How is InfantSEE® different from the vision screening that is already being provided to infants by pediatricians?
Infants have long received an eye screening from their trusted pediatricians as part of a full well-care check-up to detect a host of large-scope health problems. Many cases of successful intervention have resulted from this process. However, optometrists have the right tools to perform a comprehensive eye and vision assessment, the education to identify areas of risk that are critical to a child’s vision development, and the relationships with pediatric eye specialists to provide infants another level of eye care that complements the care delivered by pediatricians.
I understand the assessment includes dilation – is that really necessary? Doesn’t that hurt the infant?
An InfantSEE® assessment is meant to detect the potential for vision problems, but also eye health problems, both of which can be more easily corrected if treatment is started early. The eye is the only place within the body that blood vessels can be seen without having to look through skin or tissue. The optometrist may use drops or a spray to dilate the baby’s pupils to get a better look inside and ensure the health of the eye. A stinging sensation may occur momentarily, but overall the assessment is fun and non-invasive for the baby.
Why are optometrists offering this service for free?
Optometrists are offering these comprehensive assessments at no cost to ensure that EVERY infant has access to appropriate eye and vision care. We believe the program is a reasonable investment in the wellness of our communities.
How can optometrists test an infant’s vision if babies can’t speak?
Although infants cannot respond verbally, the first year of life is the best time to conduct an extensive eye assessment. Not only is this a critical time for eye and vision development, but generally children at this age do not yet fear doctor visits.
Typically, infants sit on their parent’s lap during the assessment, and the optometrist will conduct several tests to evaluate an infant’s overall eye health:
- Visual Acuity - This checks to see if an infant can fix their eyes on an object, and follow the object while it moves. It also helps to determine which objects the baby prefers to look at, and at what distances.
- Prescription Status – The doctor of optometry uses lenses and light from a small hand-held instrument to assess how the baby’s eye responds to particular targets.
- Eye Movement - Using hands, a light or a toy, the optometrist catches the baby’s attention and observes how the baby follows the movements of the object.
- Eye Alignment/Binocular Potential – By covering one eye at a time, the eye doctor can study eye muscles and acuity.
- Eye Health – The eye doctor will examine the eye’s structure as well as the eyelids, tear ducts, and other parts of the eye. The doctor will also check pupil function and assess visual field.
Although problems are not common, it is important to identify children who are potentially at risk at this stage. Vision development and eye health problems can be easily corrected if treatment is started early.
What happens if the optometrist finds a problem during the comprehensive eye assessment?
In addition to sharing his or her findings with the parents, the optometrist will send summary letters to the infant’s pediatrician, family physician or other appropriate healthcare practitioner, reporting and explaining any significant condition diagnosed in the course of the assessment. The optometrist will also recommend appropriate treatment or vision training, which parents may choose to obtain from any eye care provider they wish.
If a problem is identified, and treatment is necessary, is the cost covered by InfantSEE®?
No, the program’s focus is to identify risk of future problems. In fact, in 90% of cases, no follow-up care is needed.
InfantSEE® provides assessments to infants between six and 12 months of age. What happens to children older than 12 months who are in need of an assessment?
The InfantSEE® program was designed to fill an unmet need in assessing the potential for eye and vision problems in infants six to 12 months of age – one of the most critical stages of visual development. While we encourage all parents to take their children, regardless of age, to visit an optometrist for a comprehensive eye assessment, the program is not structured to see children older than one year of age at no cost.
If pressed: A significant amount of money is already being invested in this public health program, and it would be financially impossible to provide no-cost assessments to children of all ages. However, optometrists can assess each case individually and see older children at no cost at their discretion.
Are optometrists as qualified as ophthalmologists to provide this type of service?
Optometrists are fully qualified to provide this type of service. American Optometric Association doctors of optometry are highly qualified, trained doctors who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the eye. As primary eye care providers, optometrists play a major role in an individual's overall health and well-being by detecting systemic diseases.
Through four years of advanced post-graduate, doctoral-level study concentrated specifically on the eye and vision health, and participation in annual continuing education courses, doctors of optometry have knowledge, clinical skill and geographic distribution to meet infants’ vision needs.
Are the participating optometrists pediatric specialists?
Optometrists have the experience and training to provide primary eye care to patients of all ages, including infants. Additionally, optometrists have relationships with pediatric eye specialists, enabling them to make referrals as appropriate.
Is this program merely a practice-building endeavor for optometrists?
No. The InfantSEE® program grew out of a challenge from former President Carter to optometry in 2002 to develop a program that started professional eye care at a young age, with no cost to patients, health care insurance or the government. The AOA and Optometry Cares – The AOA Foundation feel that optometry is uniquely suited to provide this primary eye care service to our nation’s children and has taken the initiative to meet this need.
How can parents find more information about InfantSEE® and locate a participating optometrist in their area?
To learn more about InfantSEE®, or to find an InfantSEE® optometrist in their area, parents are encouraged to visit www.InfantSEE.org or to call toll free 888-396-EYES (3937).
- Available year-round
- Provides no-cost exams by an eye doctor who has the instruments and resources not available to general-care doctors like pediatricians and family physicians
- Detects potential problems that, if undetected, may lead to learning and developmental issues later
- Gives new parents the peace of mind that their infant’s vision is developing properly
Prevalence of Vision Problems and Eye Diseases That Will Develop in Children
- One in 10 children overall is at risk from undiagnosed vision problems.
- Only 14 percent of children from infancy to age 6 have a comprehensive eye assessment from an eye care professional.
- One in 30 children will be affected by amblyopia – often referred to as lazy eye – a leading cause of vision loss in people younger than 45 years.
- One in 25 will develop strabismus – more commonly known as crossed-eyes – a risk factor for amblyopia
- One in 33 will show significant refractive error such as near-sightedness, far-sightedness and astigmatism
- One in 100 will exhibit evidence of eye disease, such as glaucoma
- One in 20,000 children have retinoblastoma (intraocular cancer) the seventh most common pediatric cancer
- From 2006-2007, one in nine infants assessed showed an overall need for concern, which required follow-up or referral to a specialist
Clinical Data Demonstrating the Need for InfantSEE
- Current red reflex screening, as performed by pediatricians or family physicians, appears to be ineffective in detecting early retinoblastoma as over 80 percent of patients had their presenting sign detected by a family member or friend .
- The majority of vision problems detected through InfantSEE assessments include retinoblastoma (eye cancer), severe hyperopia (farsightedness), myopia (nearsightedness), congenital glaucoma and congenital cataract .
- Babies born prematurely and those from ethnic minority backgrounds were at greatest risk for abnormal prescription status.
- The Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood (ALSPAC) reported that intensive screening performed 6 times between ages 8 months and 37 months by an eye care professional led to a decrease in :
- Amblyopia, which was three times less likely after treatment – from 1.8 percent to 0.6 percent
- Residual amblyopia from 25 percent to 7.5 percent after treatment
- A study reported by the American Academy of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS) in 2007 found that infants and toddlers whose amblyopia was detected by age two years had substantially better treatment success than children whose amblyopia was detected between ages two and four years .
- The proportion of children with the condition and the severity of amblyopia increases with each preschool year, from one to five years.
- The added economic value in America for amblyopia care is estimated to be $27.9 billion. InfantSEE estimates that scheduled visual examinations cost approximately $4.8 billion per year.
To learn more about InfantSEE visit www.infantsee.org or call toll-free (888) 396-EYES (3937).