The Florida Senate today championed vision screenings for children by adopting Senate Resolution 1724, which recognizes August 2023 as “Amblyopia Awareness Month,” thanks to the efforts of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology (FSO) and the For Eye Care Foundation (FECF).
The resolution, sponsored by Senator Lori Berman, will bring awareness to amblyopia, and it’s devastating yet often preventable impacts on children. Amblyopia, sometimes also referred to as “lazy eye,” is the most common cause of permanent vision loss in children and, along with other vision issues, puts 1 in 20 children at risk for vision loss.
“Vision screenings early and often are one of the best tools parents and guardians have against vision issues like amblyopia, which can be caught and treated if found early enough,” said Joseph T. Nezgoda, MD, MBA, President of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology and Fellowship Trained Retina Specialist at The Retina Macula Institute. “No child should have to suffer permanent vision loss that could have been prevented if only there was more education and awareness of the importance of vision screenings, particularly screenings done before age five. The Florida Society of Ophthalmology thanks Senator Lori Berman for helping to keep our children safe and well, and for championing early vision screenings for all children.”
Since many forms of amblyopia are difficult to detect and can be identified only through proper screening techniques, the sooner children are identified as having amblyopia or other vision-threatening disorders, the sooner a treatment plan be made. In fact, the detection of amblyopia and other vision threatening disorders in early childhood— including retinoblastoma tumors, cataracts, and strabismus— increases the chances of successful treatment, especially if the disorder is detected before a child reaches five years of age.
A recent report from the American Academy of Ophthalmology also shows that half of childhood blindness in the US is preventable. Yet less than 20 percent of preschool children are currently screened for vision problems, despite the fact that such screening is a covered service by many health insurance plans and health maintenance organizations.
The resolution also promotes statewide preschool vision screenings, with a goal statewide to test all children between the ages of three and five. The FSO, along with the FECF, will be partnering with organizations across the state to promote amblyopia awareness and perform pediatric vision screenings.
“As members of the State Legislature, we have a responsibility to ensure that our most vulnerable populations are able to get the care they need,” said Senator Lori Berman, sponsor of the amblyopia resolution. “Children deserve access to preventative treatment like vision screenings, and parents and guardians must be aware of the risks of forgoing early vision screenings and have the resources they need to make the best health decisions for their child.”
The AAO recommends screenings early and often and has even released a recommended age appropriate schedule of screenings that parents and guardians can follow. FEFC works with community partners across the state to ensure parents and guardians have access to free and easy vision screenings.
“We know that the sooner children are identified to have vision threatening disorders such as amblyopia, the sooner we can treat them and the better their chances of a successful treatment,” said David B. Cano, MD, Chair of the For Eye Care Foundation and Managing Partner at Cano & Manning Eye Center, PLLC. “Children are going through a massive amount of change from birth to age five that they aren’t always able to articulate. Vision screenings can save a child’s vision, which is why the For Eye Care Foundation is committed to providing free vision screenings across the state.”