Pediatric Ophthalmology

Vision Screening Declines in Children, Adolescents

The rate of children receiving vision screening decreased significantly between 2016 to 2020 in the United States, emphasizing the need for pediatric vision care after the likely impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent study.

Using data from the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH)—a cross-sectional survey—from 2016 to 2020, the researchers examined 4 primary vision measures: vision screening, specialist utilization, vision status, and unmet vision access. Their analysis included data from 174,551 children that spanned from neonates to adolescents in the U.S.

According to the data, vision screening prevalence steadily declined from 69.6% (95% CI, 68.6 – 70.5) to 60.1% (95% CI, 59.1 – 61.1). Although the researchers note the potential impact of COVID-19 on the decrease, vision screening began to decline before the pandemic. Further, there was a significant 5-year decrease in the proportion of children receiving a vision screening from a specialist during the same time period—55.6% (95% CI, 54.4 – 56.9) to 50.4% (95% CI, 49.0 – 51.7).

Further, the researchers found there was no statistically significant change of reported blindness or trouble seeing when wearing glasses (1.6% [95% CI, 1.3 – 1.9] to 1.9% [95% CI, 1.5 – 2.2].

Prior to the pandemic (2016-2019), the researchers observed a decrease in unmet access to vision care (24.3%), but after the pandemic reports showed an increase in unmet vision from 0.5% (95% CI, 0.4-0.8) to 1.1% (95% CI, 0.8-1.5).

“Details on vision screening and access trends in the U.S. in the pediatric population are vital to inform future policymaking and patient care,” the researchers wrote. “These analyses provide the first exploration of vision-related trends in screening and access focusing on the impacts of the pandemic.”


—Jessica Ganga


Chauhan MZ, Elhusseiny AM, Samarah ES, Rook BS, Sallam AB, Phillips PH. Five-year trends in pediatric vision screening and access in the United States. Am J Opthalmol. Published online October 1, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.optha.2022.09.018.