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Vision Screening in Children Aged 6 Months to 5 Years: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement



One of the most important causes of vision abnormalities in children is amblyopia (also known as "lazy eye"). Amblyopia is an alteration in the visual neural pathway in a child's developing brain that can lead to permanent vision loss in the affected eye. Among children younger than 6 years, 1% to 6% have amblyopia or its risk factors (strabismus, anisometropia, or both). Early identification of vision abnormalities could prevent the development of amblyopia.

Subpopulation considerations

Studies show that screening rates among children vary by race/ethnicity and family income. Data based on parent reports from 2009-2010 indicated identical screening rates among black non-Hispanic children and white non-Hispanic children (80.7%); however, Hispanic children were less likely than non-Hispanic children to report vision screening (69.8%). Children whose families earned 200% or more above the federal poverty level were more likely to report vision screening than families with lower incomes.


To update the 2011 US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation on screening for amblyopia and its risk factors in children.

Evidence review

The USPSTF reviewed the evidence on the accuracy of vision screening tests and the benefits and harms of vision screening and treatment. Surgical interventions were considered to be out of scope for this review.


Treatment of amblyopia is associated with moderate improvements in visual acuity in children aged 3 to 5 years, which are likely to result in permanent improvements in vision throughout life. The USPSTF concluded that the benefits are moderate because untreated amblyopia results in permanent, uncorrectable vision loss, and the benefits of screening and treatment potentially can be experienced over a child's lifetime. The USPSTF found adequate evidence to bound the potential harms of treatment (ie, higher false-positive rates in low-prevalence populations) as small. Therefore, the USPSTF concluded with moderate certainty that the overall net benefit is moderate for children aged 3 to 5 years.

Conclusions and recommendations

The USPSTF recommends vision screening at least once in all children aged 3 to 5 years to detect amblyopia or its risk factors. (B recommendation) The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of vision screening in children younger than 3 years. (I statement).

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