Eye Sight : Child Vision Screening Important

Laurel Wilson, Daily News, Bowling Green, Ky.

About 5 percent of children under the age of 6 have a vision problem. But if a child has never had correct eyesight, he or she won't know it.

"A lot of times, they don't realize they have it, and their parents don't realize they have it," said Russell Morgan, a member of the Bowling Green Evening Lions Club.

Morgan helped screen children for eyesight problems Wednesday at Broadway United Methodist Church's Early Learning Center as part of the KidSight program. The Evening Lions Club brought the nationwide program to Bowling Green six years ago, and club members have tested hundreds of local children each school year for vision problems such as lazy eye, astigmatism, nearsightedness, farsightedness and improper alignment.

Last year, the Evening Lions Club raised $10,000 for a Photoscreener, which captures an image of the light reflecting off a child's eyes to identify whether he or she has eyesight problems.

Before the Lions Club bought the Photoscreener, several Polaroid photos had to be taken of each child's eyes and the process took three or four volunteers, said Paul Young, KidSight chairman for the Evening Lions Club. With the Photoscreener, only one picture is necessary and the device takes it automatically when the child looks directly into the lens. Now, just two volunteers are needed at each school.

"It's just so much easier," Young said.

Early detection is key to correcting eyesight problems, because some conditions can lead to permanent loss of vision if not treated in time, said Ken Chapman of Bowling Green, a member of the Evening Lions Club who helped screen children along with Morgan.

"If it's not caught by age 6, they will always have a problem because it can't be corrected (after that age)," Chapman said.

The images taken with the Photoscreener are examined by the Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation in Louisville, he said. If professionals there determine a child has a vision problem, the child is referred to an ophthalmologist or optometrist.

About 5 percent of children who are screened end up being identified for referral, Young said. The most common eye conditions discovered are strabismus and nearsightedness.

The Evening Lions Club expects to have screened more than 700 local children by the end of this school year, Young said.

In addition to checking the children, club members hope to make parents and teachers aware of the eye problems children can have, he said.

"We are trying to raise awareness about the prevalence of visual problems in children," Young said.

This is the fourth year the Evening Lions Club has brought KidSight to the Early Learning Center, said Tonya Simpson, director of the center.

"It's huge, it's free, it's painless," she said.

The service is offered to all children at the center ages 2 and up, and about 90 percent of parents choose to take advantage of it, Simpson said.

"If we can alleviate any problem, that's what we like to do," she said.

©2013 the Daily News (Bowling Green, Ky.)

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