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What's the Difference Between an Eye Exam and a Vision Screening?

Every parent wants their child to have the best possible vision. That’s why, when it comes to back-to-school shopping, an eye exam should be at the top of your list. But why is it important for children to get an eye exam rather than just a vision screening? After all, aren’t they both designed to check your child’s vision? Let’s take a closer look at the difference between these two tests.

What Is An Eye Exam?
An eye exam is a comprehensive assessment of your child’s ocular health and overall vision. It’s conducted by an optometrist or ophthalmologist who has been trained in diagnosing and treating various visual issues. During an eye exam, the doctor will assess your child’s eyesight and eyeglasses prescription, check for any signs of diseases or abnormalities, and review family history for any hereditary conditions that may be present.  They will also measure pupillary distance (PD), which is used to correctly position lenses in glasses or contacts so that your child can see clearly and comfortably.

What Is A Vision Screening?
A vision screening is not as comprehensive as a full eye exam, but it does provide some insight into your child’s overall visual acuity—or how clear their sight is. During this type of test, children are asked to identify symbols on a chart from across the room in order to determine if they need corrective lenses or other treatments. This type of test typically takes less than five minutes and can be done by a school nurse or other healthcare provider who has been properly trained in administering vision screenings. However, it doesn't provide all the information needed for an accurate diagnosis; only a doctor can do that through a comprehensive eye exam.
It’s important for parents to understand the difference between an eye exam and vision screening so they can make sure their children are getting adequate care when it comes to their vision needs. While both exams are necessary in order to maintain healthy eyesight, only an optometrist or ophthalmologist can provide you with the detailed information you need about your child's unique visual needs through a comprehensive eye exam. So before sending them back to school this year, make sure they have had one!