Testing Vision While at Home
Summertime and COVID-19 precautions means parents will be spending a lot of time at home with their children. The American Academy of Ophthalmology has guidelines that make it possible to do basic vision testing for adults and children 3 years and older. While not a substitute for medical exam by an ophthalmologist, home testing could help discover issues that may require further attention.
There are many vision issues that if discovered early enough, can be treated. This includes Amblyopia (lazy eye) which is the number one cause of preventable, yet permanent, vision loss in children in the Unites States. Early screening in children under age 3 can help catch any issues but should be done by an ophthalmologist or other vision care professional.
Here are the items you’ll need to perform a basic at home vision test:
- > Something to cover the eye, like a paper cup or facial tissue
- > Scissors
- > Tape or tack to hang the test chart on the wall
- > A pencil or pen to record the results
- > A yardstick, tape measure, or ruler
- > A flashlight, if available
- > A well-lighted room at least 10 feet long
- > The correct testing chart which can be downloaded below:
To prepare your test area, first print the correct testing chart. When printed, the largest letter at the top of the chart should be just under an inch (23 millimeters) tall.
Place the chart on a wall with no windows and measure 10 feet from that spot. Mark the 10 foot spot and place a chair there. The chart should be eye level to the person being tested when they are sitting down.
To test a child aged 3 or older:
Explain to your child that you are going to play a “pointing game.” Using the practice E card, show them how to point in the same direction that the E is “pointing.” Turn the practice E in the four different directions (up, down, right, left). You may hold the practice card as close as the child wants until he or she can point in the four directions without help.
- > Have your child sit in the chair 10 feet from the chart, holding the cover over one eye without applying any pressure. Do not let the child peek. A second person may be needed to hold the cover in place and watch for peeking. If your child wears glasses, he or she should wear them during the test.
- > If the chart seems too dark to see clearly, use the flashlight to illuminate the test letters.
- > Point at each of the Es, starting with the largest. Have your child point in the direction the E is pointing.
- > Write down the number of the smallest line your child can correctly see (more than half of the Es correctly identified).
- > Then repeat the test with the other eye covered. If your child is tired, you may wish to test the other eye at a different time.
To test an adult or older child:
- >Have the person being tested sit in the chair, 10 feet from the chart. Make sure the chart is level with his or her eyes.
- >Have the person being tested cover one eye. If he or she uses eyeglasses for distance vision, the glasses should be worn during the test.
- >Shine the flashlight on each line of the chart, while the person you are testing reads the letters out loud. Continue to the bottom row or until the letters are too difficult for the person to see.
- >Write down the number of the smallest line seen correctly (the line with more than half of the letters correctly identified).
- >Now repeat the test with the other eye covered and record the results.
What am I looking for?
When the exam is over, record the results of your home screening by filling in the number of the smallest line the person could read for each eye below.
Home Visual Acuity Screening
Right Eye 20/_____
Left Eye 20/_____
A child should be able to see the 20/40 line by age 3 or 4, and the 20/30 line by age 5. If you test your child several times on different days and your child cannot see the expected line of print or cannot see the same line with each eye, he or she may have an eye problem. An older child or adult should be reading the 20/20 line. You should arrange for a medical eye examination by an ophthalmologist if there are abnormal results and be sure to take the numbers you wrote down with you.
Do you need to follow up with an ophthalmologist?
If you think you need to follow up with an ophthalmologist, please use the Find an EYEMD portal on the FSO website. You can search for an ophthalmologist by city, county and subspecialty.
During this time of social distancing, you may be nervous about going to a doctor’s office. Rest assured; ophthalmologists are medical doctors who understand that we need to stop the spread of COVID- 19 by following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines in offices. Most offices are utilizing masks, screening questionnaires, spacing of waiting room chairs and decreased wait times, among other measures.
Now is a good time to check with your ophthalmologist about their telehealth options. This might be a special web page log-in or PORTAL where you can communicate by email. You may also be able to talk to your provider with a video visits or something as easy as a phone call.