The Senate has OK’d a resolution designating August as “Amblyopia Awareness Month.”
Amblyopia, more commonly referred to as “lazy eye,” is the most common cause of permanent vision loss in children. It is caused by several eye disorders, and it affects an estimated one in 20 children.
Amblyopia is preventable if caught and treated early, so the Florida Society of Ophthalmology (FSO) and the For Eye Care Foundation (FECF) have made raising awareness a priority. FSO and FECF’s awareness effort was given a boost by Lantana Democratic Sen. Lori Berman, who sponsored the resolution (SR 1724).
Since many forms of amblyopia are difficult to detect and can only be identified only through proper screening techniques, it is imperative children receive screenings in early childhood.
However, a recent report from the American Academy of Ophthalmology shows that even though half of childhood blindness in the U.S. is preventable, fewer than one in five preschool children are screened for vision problems, even though screenings are covered by many health insurance plans and health maintenance organizations.
“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 FSO President Joseph T. Nezgoda, a medical doctor 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 5. The Florida Society of Ophthalmology thanks Sen. Lori Berman for helping to keep our children safe and well, and for championing early vision screenings for all children.”
The Senate 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,” Berman said. “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 released a recommended age-appropriate screening schedule to guide parents and guardians. 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, a medical doctor and Chair of the For Eye Care Foundation and Managing Partner at Cano & Manning Eye Center.
“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.”