The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends at least one vision screening for children between the ages of 3 and 5 years to identify amblyopia or its risk factors with the goal of improving visual acuity, publishing its final recommendation statement and evidence summary online Sept. 5 in JAMA.

A review of the latest evidence supports a B recommendation for vision screening at least once in children aged 3-5 years, but the evidence is insufficient to determine the balance of risks and benefits for vision screening in children younger than 3 years (meriting an I statement from the USPSTF). The recommendation updates the 2011 USPSTF recommendation, which also recommended vision screening for children aged 3-5 years with a B recommendation.

“The prevalence of amblyopia, strabismus, and anisometropia ranges from 1% to 6% among children younger than 6 years in the United States,” which can lead to permanent vision loss if left untreated, chair and corresponding author David C. Grossman, MD, of Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, Seattle, and colleagues noted in the recommendation statement (JAMA. 2017;318:836-44).

The USPSTF found “inadequate evidence that treatment reduced the incidence of long-term amblyopia or improved school performance, functioning, or quality of life.” However, the USPSTF concluded that the harms of screening and treating preschool children for amblyopia and its risk factors were small, and that treatment improved visual acuity, “which is likely to result in permanent improvements throughout life.”

The benefits of early treatment were characterized as moderate because of the risk of permanent, uncorrectable vision loss associated with untreated amblyopia, “and the benefits of screening and treatment can be experienced over a child’s lifetime,” the researchers said.

The evidence report accompanying the recommendations contained data from 40 studies with 34,709 participants, and addressed issues including the benefits of screening, accuracy of vision screening tests, and the potential harms and benefits of treatments including eye patches and glasses (JAMA. 2017;318:845-58).

“Studies directly evaluating the effectiveness of screening were limited and do not establish whether vision screening in preschool children is better than no screening,” Daniel E. Jonas, MD, of RTI International–University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Evidence-based Practice Center and his colleagues wrote in the evidence report.

Therefore, the Task Force called for additional research while recommending at least one screening.

The study was funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose. 

Read the complete recommendations online at .


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