ATLANTA, Aug. 24, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- As eye care professionals and pediatricians work together to educate parents about the importance of having their children vision-screened at an early age, awareness about the consequences of not being screened is quickly becoming a motivating factor. Alan Richards, M.D., a leading pediatric ophthalmologist based in Shreveport, Louisiana, says he works very closely with the pediatricians in his community to educate parents about the vision disorders children can have for the rest of their life, if they aren't screened young.
"Parents don't have to think twice about bringing their children into the dentist to check their teeth," said Dr. Richards, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology at LSU Health Sciences Center. "But what some parents don't understand is if they don't have their children properly vision-screened, their child may have a vision disorder, and by age 6, that disorder may become irreversible. Teeth can be replaced; eyes cannot."
The new American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement titled, Visual System Assessment in Infants, Children, and Young Adults by Pediatricians, was developed to assist pediatricians across the country when conducting vision screenings. The guidelines are expected to make a significant and long-lasting impact on the vision health of children across America.
"We are in a small community, so we know the pediatricians personally and professionally, and have periodic meetings to answer their questions," said Dr. Richards. "I wrote a letter to all of the pediatricians in Louisiana with the new AAP vision screening guidelines to assist them. Basically, the document outlines when vision screening should be done and the ideal practices for administering the screenings. Pediatricians in our area have been very receptive to vision screening devices."
Nausheen Khuddus, M.D., a pediatric ophthalmologist in Gainesville, Florida, greatly values the efforts of pediatricians throughout Gainesville, many of whom have already incorporated instrument-based vision screening devices into their practice.
"It can't be emphasized strongly enough the important role pediatricians are playing on the frontlines of vision screening. It's vital!" said Dr. Khuddus, an American Board certified ophthalmologist who completed her residency at the University of Florida in ophthalmology.
One of the on-going challenges for pediatricians is trying to screen very young children between the ages of one and three years old.
"Now with instrument-based vision screening devices being used in practices across Florida, we are able to screen very young children and identify amblyopia early, which allows us to treat it and reverse the vision loss," said Dr. Khuddus, who helped found Florida KidSight, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing vision screening for children at the earliest ages. "We used to have children 10 to 12 years old coming in for vision tests, but if they had amblyopia at that age, it was too late to correct their vision. My hope is that amblyopia will one day be eradicated with the help of pediatricians and the vital use of instrument-based vision screening devices."
Another strong advocate of the new vision screening technology, Donny W. Suh, M.D., FAAP, is one of the nation's leading pediatric ophthalmologists based in Omaha, Nebraska, who is a member of the Ophthalmology Executive Committee for the AAP and one of the co-authors of the new AAP policy statement.
"We work very closely with pediatricians and keep them updated on any new technology available for use in their clinics, so they can best screen for amblyopia, or lazy eye," said Dr. Suh, who is also actively involved with research at the Pediatric Eye Disease Investigation Group, which is sponsored by the National Eye Institute.
Robert Arnold, M.D., a pediatric ophthalmologist and former chairman of the vision screening committee for the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, has worked with pediatricians in his region of the country for more than two decades to incorporate instrument-based vision screening devices in order to conduct as accurate a vision screening as possible for the children because he is based in Anchorage, Alaska.
"Our main concern is to reduce false positive referrals," said Dr. Arnold, speaking about screened children who are mistakenly referred for follow-up eye exams. "The problem is the follow-up eye exam for those children in rural Alaska can be costly, requiring travel for the young patient and parents."
Dr. Arnold estimates it can cost as much as $1,200 in travel expenses, including airfare, hotel, cabs and restaurants. After bringing them back to Anchorage for the full eye exam, if it turns out the vision screening was wrong and there is no vision disorder, that vision screening error can cost the State of Alaska a good deal of money, not to mention the time and efforts of the parents and child.
"That's why I'm very glad that Plusoptix is in the game, because they did the most rigorous academic validation of their vision screening devices," said Dr. Arnold, one of the first eye care professionals in the world to use instrument-based vision screening devices, the MTI photo screeners beginning in 1995, and has switched to the new improved technology. "They want to get things right and have worked hard to get the refraction determination on their vision screening devices as accurate as possible, as close as possible to an actual eye exam."
Plusoptix is a global company dedicated to developing and providing the most accurate instrument-based vision screening devices in the world. Plusoptix award-winning vision screening devices have been recognized for outstanding child-friendly product design. Since 2007, the company has served North American customers from its sales and service center in Atlanta, Georgia. More information is available at www.plusoptix.com.