What is the difference between the eye exam my child gets at school or from our primary care doctor and an exam at an Optometrist office?

One of the biggest difference is that the school nurse and the general health care Doctor is NOT doing an eye exam, they are doing a vision screening! What is a vision screening? It is a limited eye test to help see if you already have vision problems and may need further testing. If you do then they send to to an Optometrist. They only catch if you CAN’T see but don’t determine why or the solution.

Think about when you go to the DMV. They do a vision screening to determine if you can see the letters clear enough to drive and that’s once every 4 or 5 years or more! They don’t tell you if your having any issues seeing up close, whether or not the pressure in your eye is normal, if the optic nerve is healthy and functioning properly or if your eyes are working together properly. They only tell you that you need to see an optometrist if you “fail”! By then there could be a myriad of issues that could have been prevented with regular yearly visits to your eye doctor. For children, an undetected vision issue can negatively impact  their ability to learn in school and their self-esteem.

Another big difference between a vision screening and eye exam is who is administering the tests and the equipment that they use. An Optometrist studies 8 years to get their degree and most do a few years of residency training before they ever open up their own offices. They have to keep up to date on the latest information and procedures and usually have state-of-the- art equipment. A vision screening at school is usually done by a school nurse or a volunteer who will have a limited knowledge of what to look for and none of the equipment needed for a complete eye exam. Going back to the DMV example, are the DMV workers trained in the latest techniques on eye care? The answer is obvious. 🙂

Another reason why vision screening can not replace a yearly comprehensive eye exam is that they can create a false sense of security when they don’t detect any problems during the screening, which in turn causes the individual to push off having their eyes examined by a trained Optometrist.

While a vision screening may be helpful in detecting an undiagnosed problem, they are no substitute for a yearly eye examination at your optometrist office.

Justin is a ABO certified licensed spectacle dispenser (California’s equivalent to Licensed Optician). He has been in the optical industry for 8 years in different states and currently manages Optometry by Thanh-Vi Nguyen in La Quinta, CA.

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