Vision issues aren't just an adult problem but, if detected early, people might not have to deal with glasses or contacts or surgery in adulthood.
There's a national initiative that not many people know about to get kids' eyes checked, and the best part is that it's free.
The program is called InfantSee. It's been around for about eight years, but still not many people are taking advantage of the program. The test is tailored for babies to catch problems early on and treat them before they show up in adulthood.
One-year-old Hailey Johnson isn't an eye doctor's typical patient, but InfantSee is specially designed to check young eyes for vision problems - problems that run in Hailey's family.
"I wear contacts and so does almost everyone in my family," her mother, Bridgett Johnson, said. "My grandpa had glaucoma."
Kids between the ages of 6 months and 1 year qualify for InfantSee. Optometrist Dr. David Fritz said early intervention is crucial. It can prevent a lifetime of visual problems, like poor depth perception or lazy eye.
"Kids are very good at - if one eye sees clearer than the other - at ignoring blurry eye and then those nerve endings are dormant and they don't grow and develop," Fritz said. "Then, as an adult, if that's not treated and caught early, they have poor vision and glasses, contacts, surgery, nothing will help the vision at that point."
Those statistics make the free check-up extremely worthwhile but, surprisingly, only 1 percent of Missouri's babies take advantage of it. Only 900 infants used the program last year, compared to the nearly 80,000 babies born in Missouri.
"What we are really trying to do is screen these kids at an early age for kids in a high risk group that we know may have problems such as amblyopia which is the lazy eye and again unequal focus is really the biggest problem for whatever reason - one eye doesn't see as well as the other, the brain will ignore that eye and then that eye as an adult does not have good vision potential," Fritz said. "So if you catch that early, you can treat it."
Everything checked out normal for baby Hailey.
"I just think it's better to catch things before something serious is wrong," Bridgett Johnson said.
It was a relief for Bridgett Johnson, who didn't want to take any chances on her daughter's beautiful baby blues.
Eye doctors with the American Optometric Association started the program and doctors donate their time to it. It's run through donations and open to anyone, no matter their income lever or insurance coverage.
The program is also available in Kansas. To find a provider and to learn more about the InfantSee program, go to www.infantsee.org.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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