By ANGIE CARNATHAN
The American Optometric Association and The Vision Care Institute of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc., partnered to create InfantSEE, a no-cost public health program developed to provide professional eye care for infants ages 6-12 months nationwide, and several area optometrists are participating.
Local InfantSEE optometrists will provide a one-time, comprehensive eye assessment to infants, offering early detection of potential eye and vision problems at no cost regardless of income.
According to a release, Gov. Haley Barbour has proclaimed Sept. 24 to Oct. 11 as InfantSEE Week in Mississippi.
“The most critical stages of vision develop in a child’s first year of life, and undetected eye and vision problems can lead to permanent vision impairment, loss of life or a decrease in a child’s quality of life,” Barbour said. “I encourage the citizens of Mississippi to participate in InfantSEE Week by scheduling a comprehensive eye and vision assessment for their infants.”
Dr. Regan Ford of Ford Vision Clinic is a proponent of the InfantSEE program.
“Babies can have all kinds of different issues that can be detected early, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Ford said.
Dr. Sarah Fratesi and Dr. Amy Crigler of Crigler Family Vision are also participating. Fratesi said the program is something every parent should utilize, especially since the visit is totally free of charge year-round.
“Infant exams are very important to detect any kind of underlying eye problem in small children. Those problems can affect their ability to learn, develop, grow and to ultimately do well in school,” Fratesi said. “Some of the things we check for are to make sure the eyes work well together, there’s no eye turn, the ocular health, which makes sure both the front and the back of their eyes are healthy, and we check their prescription.”
According to the AOA, 1-in-10 children is at risk from undiagnosed vision problems. One-in-30 children will be affected by amblyopia — often referred to as lazy eye — a leading cause of vision loss in people younger than 45 years old. One-in-25 will develop strabismus — more commonly known as crossed eyes, 1-in-33 will show significant refractive errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, 1-in-100 will exhibit evidence of eye disease — glaucoma, for example — and 1-in-20,000 children have retinoblastoma (intraocular cancer) the seventh most common pediatric cancer.
Fratesi said parents interested in bringing their child in for an InfantSEE exam need just call, make a regular appointment and let the receptionist know they would like an InfantSEE appointment. Fratsesi also offered some tips for making the appointment go well for both parent and child.
“We do ask that you bring a change of diaper, make sure the child has something to eat or drink and don’t schedule the appointment during their nap time,” Fratesi said. “Basically, it’s best if you bring them at the time of day they’re at their happiest.”
One parent or both parents accompany the child throughout the exam. Fratesi said the children usually do great with the appointment.
“We usually just sit the baby in their parents lap throughout the exam,” Fratesi said. “It’s just a typical eye exam. We do dilate their eyes in, which might sting a little when it goes in, but the babies usually take it better than some of our adults.”
Since the exam is free, Fratesi said nothing done during the exam is reported to insurance or Medicaid. If something serious is found in the exam, which Fratesi said is rare, at that point the child would be referred to an eye specialist.
“It’s just a really great, free program for babies 6-12 months,” Fratesi said.
For more information about the InfantSEE program or to find an optometrist in your area, visit http://www.aoa.org  or http://www.infantsee.org, or call toll-free (888) 396-EYES (3937).