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Vision & Eye Q3 2022

Solutions to children’s eye health is not something to look past

iStock / Getty Images Plus / standret

Denise Voon MCOptom

Clinical Adviser, The College of Optometrists

Being able to see clearly is vital for a child’s overall development and helps them discover and learn about their world, using visual prompts to enable their socialisation skills.

Most children have healthy eyes and do not need to wear glasses. But if there are problems unidentified at an early age, your child may have permanently reduced vision in one or both eyes. A sight test can identify conditions such as a lazy eye (amblyopia) or a squint (strabismus). Both can be successfully treated if detected early.

Up to 23% of parents have never taken their child for a sight test.

Recognising the signs early

It is essential for parents to recognise the signs of a child struggling to see clearly or experiencing vision changes. Research from The College of Optometrists shows that up to 23% of parents have never taken their child for a sight test. If problems go undetected, it could impact their development, school achievement, and daily life. Whether or not you suspect an issue with your child’s vision, it’s important to see an optometrist.

As part of each UK nation’s child health screening programme, children should undergo an eye check and be offered an eye screening at around age four to five. However, it is important to understand that these checks are not universal, and they are designed to identify healthy eyesight development and some—not all—conditions that affect the eyes. Eye screening is not a substitute for an eye examination by an optometrist. It is crucial to check if your child’s school has a screening programme in reception or year one. Book an eye exam with your local optometrist if you have noticed any of the following:

  • Having one eye turn in or out
  • Rubbing their eyes excessively
  • Clumsiness and poor hand-eye coordination
  • Avoiding reading, writing, or drawing
  • Screwing up their eyes when they read or watch TV
  • Holding books or objects close to their face
  • Behavioural or concentration issues at school
  • Blurred or double vision or unexplained headaches

Children with learning disabilities are more at risk and may be less able to communicate issues with their vision, so regular eye care with an optometrist is essential.

The impact of parents

It’s important to note that if a parent wears glasses for short-sightedness (myopia), their child is between three and nine times more likely to become short-sighted. This is most likely to develop between the ages of six and thirteen, so ensure they get regular eye examinations throughout primary school to detect and treat it when it first develops.

If you have concerns about your child’s vision, book an appointment with your optometrist: www.lookafteryoureyes.org/Find

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