Students at Kadena undergo vision tests
Stars and Stripes October 17, 2004
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — First- graders and Sure Start preschoolers at Bob Hope Primary School spent Thursday taking tests.
But, these weren’t the typical tests to see how much students have learned; they were vision tests.
Doctors from U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa’s Eye Clinic spent the day screening the children for vision problems. Volunteers helped the doctors run more than 220 kids through six stations, which ranged from color blindness to hearing.
Holding the screenings when children are young is important, said Lt. Cmdr. Cyrus Rad, the hospital’s optometry department head. He said a range of tests is much better than the standard test, in which the patient covers one eye and reads letters off a chart.
By giving the six tests, Rad said doctors can catch more vision problems.
“When you talk about vision, it’s a critical period of development to catch problems … from birth to 7 years of age,” Rad said. “If you catch the problem after that, it can cause permanent loss.”
If a child’s need for glasses is not discovered early, Rad explained, the brain will compensate for the vision problem by ignoring one eye.
He said that could result in “lazy” eye or loss of vision.
Rad said he compares his job to working in a camera shop.
“It’s a simple analogy,” he said. “I look at the eyes to see how clear the cameras see the image; if the cameras are lined up, are they pointing at the same object; how good the film is; color vision; if they need any type of attachment or lens, glasses; and what I can do to make the image clear.”
By using the more extensive tests, the doctors can help make those images clear to more patients. Cmdr. John Laurent, also an optometrist, said anywhere from 15 to 50 percent of the patients screened at one of these events could get referred to the clinic for further testing. Thursday’s screening netted 58 referrals out of more than 220 children tested.
Laurent said following the screening, the school nurse would notify the parents of students who need to be seen at the clinic.
Bob Hope Primary’s nurse, Amarillys Sojo, said it’s mandatory for Sure Start and first-grade pupils to have eye screenings, but to her knowledge, this is the first time it was done all at once at the school by optometrists.
Rad said members of the hospital’s eye clinic and doctors from the 18th Medical Group on Kadena will screen all Sure Start students, first- and fourth-graders at Department of Defense Dependents Schools on Okinawa for the next three months. Grades tested are spaced out so doctors can screen every child once during their parents’ three-year tour.