College of Optometrists’ funds Cochrane Review updates on vision screening and reading aids

  • 23 May 2018

The College of Optometrists has funded two Cochrane Review updates in support of the Cochrane Eyes and Vision (CEV) group based at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

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The global review updates were used to answer questions on the topics of Vision screening for correctable visual acuity deficits in school-age children and adolescents (Review) published 15 February 2018 and Reading aids for adults with low vision (Review) published 18 April 2018.

The review updates produced the following key findings:

Vision screening 

  • There are no studies comparing vision screening with no vision screening highlighting a gap in evidence.
  • Vision screening with the provision of free spectacles results in more children wearing spectacles after screening compared with giving the children a prescription on its own. Children in the free-spectacle group had better educational attainment, although this evidence was not as strong. 
  • Ready-made and custom-made spectacles appear to give similar visual results and similar spectacle wearing compliance levels.

Reading aids for adults 

  • There is insufficient evidence supporting the use of a specific type of electronic or optical device for the most common profiles of low-vision aid users. However, there is some evidence that stand-mounted electronic devices may improve reading speeds compared with optical devices.
  • There is less evidence to support the use of head-mounted or portable electronic devices; however, the technology of electronic devices may have improved since the studies included in this review took place.
  • There is no good evidence to support the use of filters or prism spectacles.

The research was undertaken by College members Priya Morjaria MCOptom and Claire Allcock MCOptom, who assisted the CEV team in the evaluation of all empirical evidence that met a pre-specified criteria.

Priya Morjaria MCOptom, author of the vision screening review, said: “Over the past decade, it has become more apparent that as clinicians, we need evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence to make sure that we are not only doing what is best for our patients but also doing it in the best way possible. Findings from reviews help us understand this and ensure we continue to improve and do what is best based on evidence. 

“This specific review highlights that screening children with a vision impairment and providing them with spectacles can increase their compliance with spectacles. This can, in turn, lead to better educational outcomes.”  

Jennifer Evans, Editor at CEV, said: “Cochrane Eyes and Vision would like to thank the College of Optometrists for supporting two important Cochrane Review updates. Uncorrected refractive error is an important cause of visual impairment in children. Approximately 1% of children worldwide (13 million) are estimated to be visually impaired due to the eye disorder. The current update of the vision screening review enabled us to include emerging evidence that shows that vision screening with provision of free spectacles results in more children wearing spectacles and may lead to better educational attainment. 

The second review demonstrates that it is important for people with low vision to find the right reading aid. Our review on reading aids for low vision provides a systematic assessment of the research in this area. The updated review provides evidence that electronic aids may help people with low vision with improved reading speeds and reading duration, compared with using optical aids. The review highlights lack of evidence for use of filters or prism spectacles for people with age-related macular degeneration.”

Speaking about the research, Mike Bowen, Director of Research at the College of Optometrists said; “At the College we’re proud to work with the leading resource for systematic reviews in health care and to fund research on behalf of our membership. It’s great to have the opportunity to produce evidence that will support two large population groups and fill knowledge gaps relating to evidence and public health.” 

The findings from the vision screening and reading aids review updates have been published on the Cochrane Library website

Martin Cordiner, Head of Research at the College has written a blog about Cochrane reviews, which can be read on the College website. 


Notes to Editors

  1. The College is the professional body for optometry. It qualifies the profession and delivers the guidance and training to ensure optometrists provide the best possible care. We promote excellence through the College’s affixes, by building the evidence base for optometry, and raising awareness of the profession with the public, commissioners, and healthcare professionals.
  2. The College of Optometrists has introduced an opportunity for members, organisations and the public to support the College’s research work. The College is inviting donations to allow individuals and organisations to play a part in its work to develop evidence that is capable of advancing the profession, reduce preventable vision loss and providing accessible, high quality, eye care for all. To contribute to the Research Fund, visit the College’s donation page: 
  3. Cochrane reviews are recognised as representing an international gold standard for high quality, trusted information. Cochrane’s CEV group work to prepare, maintain and promote access to systematic reviews of interventions to treat or prevent eye disease or visual impairment. The updates funded by the College will help to ensure that treatment decisions are based on the most up-to-date and reliable evidence available.


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