Public health experts recommend that children visit an eye care professional in the first year of life – one of the most critical stages of visual development – to identify the potential for eye and vision problems. In fact, Health People 2010, a set of health objectives for the nation to achieve over the first decade of the new century, now includes vision objectives for children, which at present, are far from being met.
In an effort to encourage infant eye and vision assessments and ensure they are accessible to everyone, the American Optometric Association (AOA) and The Vision Care Institute of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc., have partnered to create InfantSEE™, a no-cost public health program developed to provide professional eye care for infants nationwide (www.infanrsee.org). Through InfantSEE™, 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.
Former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter are honorary spokespersons of InfantSEE™, as they appreciate the importance of infant eye assessments based on their family’s experience with vision problems. Two of their grandchildren suffered from vision problems that were not detected as early as they could have been. Their granddaughter was diagnosed and treated as a toddler for amblyopia, often referred to as lazy eye. A leading cause of vision loss in people younger than 45, amblyopia will affect one in 30 children. Their grandson’s amblyopia was not identified until grade school and may never be fully corrected.
Your Infant’s First Visit to the Optometrist
A baby’s first visit to the optometrist for an eye assessment should happen between 6 and 12 months of age. Although infants cannot respond verbally, the first year of life is an ideal time to conduct a comprehensive 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. Optometrists, through their clinical education, training and experience, have the instruments and resources to provide the most effective primary eye and vision services to children, as a complement to routine well-care exams given by pediatricians.
What Happens during an InfantSEE™ Assessment?
An InfantSee™ assessment can detect the potential for vision and eye health problems, which can be more easily corrected if treatment is started early. Typically, an infant will sit on his of her parent’s lap during the assessment, in which the optometrist will use lights and other hand held objects, like finger puppets, to check that the baby’s eyes are working together and that there are no significant issues that will interfere with proper vision development. 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. Generally, infants find the assessment painless and often fun!
During the assessment, the optometrist will test to make sure the infant is seeing clearly, will look for unequal amounts of nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism and will check to see that the eyes are seeing straight and working together as a team. The health of your baby’s eyes will be assessed as well. Although serious problems are not common, it is important to identify specific risk factors at this stage.