A new app available to pediatricians can screen children as young as six months old for any vision problems that could lead to permanent vision loss.
It’s called "Go Check Kids" and can determine if a child has nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism or lazy eye.
Amblyopia - often called lazy eye - is the number one cause of permanent vision loss in children. If it’s not identified and the eye shuts off for a long enough period of time, the child could lose their vision in that eye.
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Traditionally, pediatricians use an eye chart to find these risk factors; however, it can only be used when the patient is 3 or 4 years old and can cooperate with the doctor.
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Dottie Tripp used the app on her 18 month old son Jack because she had lazy eye herself as a child
"I don’t want him experiencing all the things I experienced," she said.
However with the Go Check Kids app, Jack can be tested for lazy eye. Unlike with an eye chart, Jack doesn’t have to know how to read. All he has to do is sit still for two seconds.
"You can actually just take a picture of the child’s eyes and as early as six months of age pick up the same risk factors as you would with an eye chart," said Dr. Suzy McNulty.
It works by using something similar to the red eye effect in photos.
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"The camera flash passes into the eye through the pupil reflecting off the back of the eyeball and then out again, allowing the camera to record detailed images of the inside of the child’s eyes," said NBC4’s Dr. Bruce Hensel.
This result is a photo with a crescent shape on either the right or the left side of the eye. It’s then measured by an ophthalmologist who determines if the child has nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism or lazy eye.
"This tool actually gives us a lot earlier detection," McNulty said. "And the other key to this is the earlier the detection the better the treatment for prevention."
Although the photo screening app is a reliable tool, it’s still only used for the initial screening. An eye specialist still needs to officially diagnose and treat the problem.
Dottie Tripp said it provided peace of mind.
"Knowing that I’m doing something to help prevent that in him that’s my job as his mom," she said.
Dr. Bruce’s advice: "Don’t wait. Have your pediatrician check your child’s vision in the first year of life and ask if this app or any other device might lead to early diagnosis and cure."