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St. Joseph’s Health uses grant funding to buy pediatric-vision screeners

vision screener
Sarah Connolly, a registered nurse coordinator with St. Joseph’s Health holds the spot-vision screener at the hospital.

SYRACUSE — St. Joseph’s Health has purchased equipment to assist in the early detection of amblyotic risk factors in children between six months and five years of age.

Often occurring by age seven, amblyopia is commonly known as “lazy eye.”

St. Joseph’s will use the new pediatric-vision screening equipment at its primary-care centers located at the main hospital and at 321 Gifford St., both in Syracuse, St.
Joseph’s said in a news release issued May 15. The organization provides care for pediatric patients at both locations.


St. Joseph’s Health used a grant of more than $15,000 from the J. Henry & Martha E. Deboer Fund of the Central New York Community Foundation to purchase the two screeners.

Visual impairment in children is “easily identified,” says Denise Dann, registered nurse and director of hospital-based primary-care center at St. Joseph’s Health. “And if you can identify early, [it’s also] easily treated, so that they don’t end up with further visual impairments as they get older,” Dann adds.

Welch Allyn developed the equipment, says Dann, who spoke with CNYBJ on May 15.

The treatment won’t happen during a visit to the primary-care office.

“We’re going to identify if there’s an impairment and then at that point we know that the child needs to be seen by a specialist,” she says.

Physicians and nurses will also educate parents on the risks of undetected vision loss as well as the need for follow-up eye care.

About Amblyopia
Amblyopia is caused by conditions that interfere with focus, such as poor eye alignment and near- or far-sightedness.

The result is a reduction in vision in the affected eye, leading to an improper use of that eye.

Because the effects of amblyopia can become permanent if left untreated, it is “critical” for children to begin eye screenings in infancy, St. Joseph’s Health said.

The earlier that amblyopia is identified, the “more easily and successfully” it can be treated.

“Usually it’s only one eye. Very rarely, it can be both eyes, but generally, it’s just one eye that’s affected and usually identifiable in children under the age of six,” says Dann.

To enhance early detection, a properly trained provider will use a spot vision screener to assess children for amblyopic-risk factors during their six month and annual wellness visits.

Unlike traditional screening tools, spot vision is a special camera that takes an image of a child’s eyes when they are too young to report problems on their own.

In the screening process, the equipment doesn’t touch the child.

“We don’t need to do anything other than to grab their attention, so that they’ll look into the screener, and once they look into the screener, the screener does all the work for us,” says Dann.

If any concerns are noted, patients will be referred for further evaluation and appropriate follow-up care.

“If it’s treated early, usually you can correct the vision … maybe not completely but to a point where you’re going to enhance the child’s vision for the rest of their life,” says Dann.


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