Early Eye Care Supports Brain Development

Healthy vision is critical to success in school and life. That’s why Pacific EyeClinics focus on detecting and treating vision problems long before children start school. 

The clinics, operated by Pacific’s College of Optometry, provide eye care to infants as young as 6 months old, which is when children should receive their first vision exams, according to American Optometric Association guidelines. 

School-based vision screenings and routine well-child visits can detect some basic vision problems. But they may miss problems that should be treated early in childhood, owing to the relationship between brain development and vision. Early treatment can reverse such problems as amblyopia or “lazy eye,” a childhood condition in which one eye is weaker than the other. 

“We look at visual function as a whole,” said Paula Luke OD ’08, an associate professor of optometry at Pacific and an expert in pediatric optometry and vision therapy. 

“For a child to succeed in life and school, we want to look at the whole visual system. So it’s important to bring [children] in for vision exams” starting at 6 months old, she said. Follow-up exams should be done at age 3 and then before kids start school.

The College of Optometry operates EyeClinics throughout the Portland metro area. The clinics are staffed by optometric interns in their final years of training, who are supervised by licensed optometrists.

As part of Pacific’s commitment to community service, the clinics provide free vision screenings to children under the age of 2, although the screenings are not a substitute for a complete vision exam. Screenings take about 20 minutes and don’t cause discomfort. Appointments are required. 

“As babies grow and develop, if they have good eyes, those eyes will provide good images to the brain,” said John Lowery OD ’93, MEd ’96, chief of pediatrics for Pacific’s EyeClinics,  “and the brain learns how to process that information at a higher and higher level.” 

Jan. 10, 2018