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Published On: Mon, Jun 27th, 2016

Eye Tests for School-Aged Children: The Importance of Monitoring Vision Development

Recent studies conducted by the College of Optometrists and Blind Children UK have revealed that a worrying number of children aren’t having their eyes tested, despite recommendations. With a number of potential eye problems being identified at an early age (particularly between the ages of 4 and 5), many are urging parents to take advantage of the free eye tests available.

According to the report produced by Blind Children UK, 26 per cent of parents have never visited the optician with their child. This amount increases to 43 per cent of children under the age of five, despite this being the recommended age for vision screening in schools. With 13 per cent of surveyed parents indicating that they weren’t aware that eye tests are free under the age of 16, the charity hopes to increase awareness about the importance of eye health at these early stages.

photo/ Michael Jamoluk via pixabay.com

photo/ Michael Jamoluk via pixabay.com

Early Detection

Screening at four and five is particularly important as it is at this stage that amblyopia can be detected. This is often referred to as a lazy eye and affects around 4 per cent of children. The early diagnosis of this brain visual impairment is crucial as untreated cases can often lead to ongoing vision problems and learning difficulties. It can also severely impact vision if the other eye develops any problems or loses sight.

Warning signs to be aware of are poor hand-eye coordination, sitting close to the television, watery eyes and excess rubbing of the eye(s). If a child complains of a headache or double-vision, they should be taken to an optician immediately.

Delaying Eye Tests

The findings revealed by Blind Children UK indicate that the eye health of children isn’t seen as a priority for parents. Over a third suggested that their child’s eyes seem fine so they didn’t feel an eye test was necessary. 22 per cent of parents wait until their child is aged 7 to 13, while 12 per cent leave it until their child is 8.

While companies like Laser Eye Surgery Hub can be called upon to correct vision problems later on in life with the option of laser eye surgery, the amount of children needing glasses for short-sightedness has doubled over the past 50 years due to the lack of time spent outdoors. Ulster University conducted a study which found that myopia (where distant objects are blurred) is now found in 23 per cent of 12 to 13-year-olds in the UK compared to 10 per cent in the 1960s.

Achieving an early diagnosis of any type of eye problem can provide parents and children with the support they need, and may, in some cases, lead to preventions that stop the condition from worsening. While some schools do offer examinations, it is highly recommended to take young children to the opticians for an eye test. 25 per cent of parents surveyed by Blind Children UK incorrectly believed that eye tests can’t be conducted because their child can’t read. In fact, all tests are adapted to suit the age of the child and opticians will also look at general eye health during the consultation.

Guest Author :

Lara Hall is currently on maternity leave from her job as an ophthalmic nurse. Too large to comfortably do much she is spending her time writing articles for health and parenting blogs whilst she waits for her baby to arrive!

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