Dr. Erin McCleary is one of 7,600 optometrists nationwide who are participating in InfantSEE®, a no-cost public health program developed to provide professional eye care for infants.
Under this program, supported by former President Jimmy Carter, who serves as honorary national chair and spokesman, Dr. McCleary and participating optometrists will provide a one-time, comprehensive eye assessment to infants in their first year of life, offering early detection of potential eye and vision problems at no cost regardless of income.
InfantSEE® was launched by the American Optometric Association (AOA), in partnership with The Vision Care Institute of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc.
Experts from AOA and American Public Health Association (APHA) agree that visual development is most dramatic between 6 and 12 months of age and that early detection can prevent and help reduce the threat of serious vision impairments. In fact, one in every 10 children is at risk from undiagnosed eye and vision problems by the time they are 18 years of age. However, a survey fielded by BabyCenter.com, on behalf of the AOA, reveals that nearly half of new and expectant mothers mistakenly believe that because a baby’s eyes are changing and their vision is developing in their first year of life, it is best to wait until the child is older to get them screened by an eye care professional. This discrepancy suggests a lack of understanding about the importance of early intervention. If left untreated, eye and vision problems can impact learning and may lead to permanent vision impairment.
“As parents, we regularly take our children to the dentist to help prevent cavities. Likewise, we should take our babies to the optometrist to help prevent potential eye and vision problems,” said former President Carter. “Given my family’s experience managing vision problems that were not caught early, I strongly encourage all parents with babies to visit an optometrist for an InfantSEE® assessment during the first year of their child’s life and I applaud AOA for providing parents this opportunity.”
The BabyCenter.com survey also showed that the large majority of mothers feel confident that their pediatricians have the time and resources to identify potential eye and vision problems. Actually, a typical well-child visit to the pediatrician, including care and services performed by all personnel, lasts an average of 22.1 minutes, retinoscopy, optometrists can detect asymmetric development of refractive errors that can lead to amblyopia, often referred to as lazy eye, just as commonly as eye misalignment.
Significant risk factors to eye and vision disorders, however, are typically not detectable by base-level infant eye screenings, and even early retinoblastoma (the seventh most common pediatric cancer) is detected more than 80 percent of the time by a family member or friend, as opposed to a health care professional, which is effective for detecting only readily identifiable eye problems.
Using retinoscopy, optometrists can detect asymmetric development of refractive errors that can lead to amblyopia, often referred to as lazy eye, just as commonly as eye misalignment. Significant risk factors to eye and vision disorders, however, are typically not detectable by base-level infant eye screenings, and even early retinoblastoma (the seventh most common pediatric cancer) is detected more than 80 percent of the time by a family member or friend, as opposed to a health care professional.
Although infants cannot respond verbally, the first year of life is an ideal 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 and find the assessment painless and often enjoyable. Typically, infants sit on their parent’s lap during the assessment, in which the optometrist uses lights and other hand held objects to check that their eyes are working together and that there are no significant refractive issues that will impede proper vision development. The optometrist may also use drops or a spray to dilate the baby’s pupils to ensure the health of the eye.
As part of the national launch, former President Carter issued a call-to-action through a public service announcement (PSA), which will educate parents about InfantSEE® and urge them to take advantage of the program. The PSA cites his personal experience regarding his grandchildren’s eye problems. His granddaughter was diagnosed and treated as a toddler for amblyopia, a leading cause of vision loss in people younger than 45, which will affect one in 30 children. His grandson’s amblyopia was not identified until grade school and may never be fully corrected. To learn more about InfantSEE®, call toll-free (888) 396-EYES (3937) or visit www.infantsee.org.
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