New technology screens children's vision under the age of five

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HAILEY, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) - Sometimes it is harder for children to get their vision checked. A St. Luke's Cinic in the Wood River Valley now has a new device to help with that issue.

"When we think a child is old enough to cooperate, we do the old fashion test where we look at the wall and identify letters or shapes," said Julie Lyons, a physician with St. Luke's. "Really we aren’t getting great participation in that until the children are between age five and six."

A new electronic screener allows primary care physicians to test kid's vision as early as three to five years of age.

"If you look at the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as the United States Preventive Task Service Force, it is recommended that children get screened at this age," she said.

The new device is called Plus Optix. The child looks at a smiley face on a screen.

"There's a little noise that can be made for those young children who may or may not follow verbal commands. It grabs their attention," Lyons explained.

The program will focus on the child's eyes and then within five to ten seconds, physicians will get a report.

"What it's looking at is it’s looking at the pupils and also seeing if the refraction index is appropriate for that age," she said.

The program will then tell doctors if the child passed the vision test or needs to be referred.

"Refer doesn’t necessarily mean your child is going to need glasses, but it means that your child needs a next step of testing which optometry or ophthalmology can provide," she said.

With the use of this technology, Lyons said they will be able to identify children at a much earlier age who may benefit from further testing.

"It’s just a great tool for children because they can’t always tell us that they can’t see, or that they might be seeing something blurry, but to them that might be normal, but for us it might be a vision problem," she said.

Through a grant, the clinic was able to obtain two of the vision screeners.

"(We're) very excited about it because it also allows us to link in with the pediatric ophthalmology in Boise. Using our computer system, we’re able to send them results directly," she explained.

They are using the screeners also as part of a study to test the accuracy.

"The great news is the data is very positive. 82 percent of the referrals that do not pass this test, they end up needing glasses or some sort of other vision supplement to help," she continued. "The sooner we can identify these children, the better off in the long run their eyes are."

Lyons added that the vision screens are covered by most insurances and are included in most of the wellness checkups.

"I look forward in seeing it grow over time," she said.

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