NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 25, 2004

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Association of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus shows that many children with healthy eyes are prescribed glasses when they don't need them.

In Tennessee, for example, more than 100,000 were screened for eye problems through a statewide program. Researchers found:

  • Some 3,600 were suspected to have eye disorders and were referred to specialists.
  • About 890 of those referred had no eye problems, yet nearly one in five of them were then prescribed glasses.
  • According to Sean Donahue, the study's author, optometrists wrongly prescribed glasses 35 percent of the time, while pediatric ophthalmologists only did so 2 percent of the time.

Some states, like Kentucky, require that preschoolers undergo comprehensive eye exams before entering school, but that can be costly: glasses cost about $150 and an eye exam can run $100. Instead of being screened formally, says Donahue, kids can be checked by doctors, teachers or nurses, then sent to eye specialists if problems arise.

Source: Liz Szabo, "Study: Not all kids with glasses need them," USA Today, June 24, 2004.

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