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Vision Care for your kids.

When your baby is born, you count her toes and fingers, marvel at her soft skin and try to figure out if the color of her eyes came from you or your husband. But did you ever stop to think about the health of those eyes?

"Most visual abnormalities that show up in school-aged children are hard-wired by five years of age," says Scott Jens, OD, who chairs the American Optometric Association's (AOA) InfantSEE committee. Catching those problems--including "lazy eye," or amblyopia, eye muscle imbalances (strabismus), or even a retinal tumor, which affects about one in 20,000 infants--early may enable them to be corrected.

Now, thanks to a partnership between the AOA and The Vision Care Institute of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc., you can get a free eye exam for your baby between six and 12 months of age. Wondering how you can possibly give an eye exam to an infant who can't talk or read? No problem. Optometrists and ophthalmologists are well-trained in evaluating vision in people who can't read an eye chart, whether they are very young children, stroke victims or developmentally disabled adults.

For instance, they might use tools such as gray cards with various sized stripes or pictures on them to see which card the baby prefers to look at and at what distances. A small penlight shone into the infant's eyes can assess eye alignment, while depth perception can be measured by using 3-D glasses (like those you get in the movies) and showing the baby 3-D pictures; babies with good eye coordination and depth perception reach out to touch the picture.

None of this hurts the baby, who can perch on a pillow on your lap, and the whole exam takes about 20 minutes.

With rare exceptions, identified problems aren't treated in such young babies, says Dr. Jens. "Most of these babies are still developing visually, so we try not to affect that development unless it's extremely necessary," he said. Instead, the doctor recommends a monitoring schedule to see how things develop between the time of the screening and 21 months of age, when visual development is usually complete.

"That's an important message," says Dr. Jens. "I don't want parents to think that babies come out of these evaluations with glasses. It's almost always a monitor-and-watch approach to see if the risk status changes."

To find a participating optometrist in your area, visit


(33) Brunnstrom G, Sorensen S, Alsterstad K, Sjostrand J. Quality of light and quality of life-the effect of lighting adaptation among people with low vision. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. Jul 2004;24(4):274-280.

RELATED ARTICLE: Vision and the Elderly

Most serious vision problems, like age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy, occur in the elderly. While vision loss can be devastating for anyone, it can be particularly demoralizing for an older person, says Ilene Gipson, PhD, a senior scientist at the Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston.

"Impaired vision and low vision that accrues with age is truly a risk factor for death," she says. One reason is an increased risk of falling, which can lead to broken bones. Also, if you don't see well, you become less social, she says, with a "shut-in mentality" that can result in serious psychological issues.

"That's why it's so important that women in their older years make sure they keep their vision prescriptions updated and do the best they can in terms of protecting their vision," says Dr. Gipson.

One simple thing that can help is to put stronger lightbulbs in your lamps and add lighting around your house. One study investigating the effect of lighting on the visually impaired in their homes found a significant improvement in quality of life, as well as in participants' ability to complete daily tasks. (33)
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Title Annotation:AGES & STAGES; includes related article "Vision and the Elderly"
Publication:National Women's Health Report
Date:Apr 1, 2006
Previous Article:Laser eye procedures.
Next Article:Commonly asked questions about vision.

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