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Vision screenings are no substitute for eye exams

There is a big difference between an eye exam and a vision screening, and the latter should never be in lieu of a comprehensive examination by an optometrist. Consumers who rely on the results of vision screenings could be missing potential problems with their eyes.

Vision screenings can take many forms. For instance, schools periodically offer vision screenings to learners to help identify undetected vision problems, while adults will undergo vision screenings when they apply for or update their driver’s licenses. These screenings however rely on methods which aren’t always effective at identifying vision issues. In some cases, vision screening may actually inhibit the early diagnosis of vision problems.

People are also lulled into a false sense of security; ‘I passed my screening at the traffic department, so my eyes are good’. Meanwhile, there is an underlying vision problem that the screening did not uncover and the person is none the wiser.

Undetected and untreated vision problems can affect an adult’s ability to do their job or to drive safely. In children, vision problems can dramatically affect schoolwork and general wellbeing. The earlier a vision problem is diagnosed and treated, the less it will impact an individual’s quality of life, adding that vision screening serve only to indicate and not diagnose vision problems.

There are a few reasons why vision screenings are not 100% effective. Firstly, testing methods are limited. Many vision screenings test only for distance vision and while being able to see clearly in the distance is important, it does not tell anything about the health of the eyes, how well they focus close up or how they work together. Secondly, vision screenings are often conducted by people who are untrained and thirdly, testing equipment may be inadequate or outdated.

Nothing can replace a comprehensive eye examination by a qualified optometrist. With the necessary equipment, knowledge, training and qualifications, optometrists are best placed to identify, diagnose and treat vision problems.

As many eye and vision problems do not have obvious signs or symptoms, periodic eye and vision examinations are an important part of preventive health care. Early diagnosis and treatment of eye and vision problems can help prevent vision loss. Eye exams by a qualified optometrist should be conducted in children at six months of age, again at three years old, and before they start primary school. From primary school until 60 years of age, eye exams should be conducted every two years. From age 61, annual eye exams are recommended. People in whom potential problems have been picked up, more frequent eye exams are required.

Professional eye examinations are the only effective way to confirm or rule out any eye disease or vision problem. Professional consulting begins with the proper questions, followed by various tests. A patient’s age, signs and symptoms, along with the optometrist’s professional judgment, will determine what tests are conducted.


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