More than one in ten children have an undiagnosed problem with their eyes which could be affecting their development, experts have warned.
More than half of parents in the UK think their children have their eyes tested at school so don’t bother taking them to an optician – nearly a quarter of children have never been taken for a test by their parents.
But sight tests in schools are not routine and children are being left undiagnosed and missing the window in which they can have minor problems fixed.
Confusion about who is responsible for the tests means children are waiting longer for treatment, potentially damaging their eyesight more, the report claims.
The Association of Optometrists warns failing to look after children’s eye health could lead to them struggling at school, in their social life, or later in their careers.
Children are missing out on vital eye tests because parents wrongly think they get them at school so don’t take them themselves, the Association of Optometrists has warned
A report released today by the UK’s leading organisation for opticians revealed 24 per cent of four to 16 year-olds have never been taken for an eye test by their parents.
But vision problems are common and 3.4 million children have already been diagnosed with them.
The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is warning of a ‘huge gap’ in parents’ understanding of how much eye care their children get at school.
Some 52 per cent of parents think they will get a full eye test, but in reality this doesn’t happen.
And as a result, optometrists are regularly seeing children with undiagnosed eye problems which could have been more successfully treated if spotted earlier.
Optometrists see children who should have been treated earlier
The AOP’s Farah Topia explained: ‘The research demonstrates that unfortunately there is a huge gap between what most parents think is provided, and the eye health care that children actually receive at school through vision screening.
CHILDREN AT RISK OF EYE DAMAGE FROM SCREENS
Millions of children are at risk of long-term eye damage because they’re failing to spend enough time outside in natural light, a leading expert has warned.
David Allamby, an ophthalmologist and director of London’s Focus Clinic, says sunlight prevents short-sightedness, meaning those who stay indoors playing on their phones risk myopia – which can eventually cause blindness.
He said: ‘This generation have double the amount of short-sightedness than their parents or grandparents did.
‘Worryingly, children are now simply spending much more time indoors than in previous generations.
‘An addiction to mobile phones and lit screen technology among the young indicates that the numbers suffering eye sight problems is only going to get worse.’
Mr Allamby advised parents to ensure their screen-addicted children spend at least 90 minutes outside each day to keep their vision healthy.
‘Many parents also don’t realise that there is a window of opportunity to treat certain eye conditions.
‘This is why many practitioners are seeing children come in with a condition that could have been treated much more effectively had they been seen earlier.’
Parents do not know eye tests are free for children
The report claims many parents are not aware eye tests are free for children, and over a quarter (27 per cent) admit waiting for their child to show symptoms like sitting close to the television before taking them for a test.
A survey of 1,200 eye doctors revealed nearly three quarters of them have seen children with undiagnosed issues in the past year, and experts think 13 per cent of children have an eye problem which could be affecting their development.
The AOP says children should have their first eye test when they are three, and that a lack of action by parents could further damage their eyesight.
‘It’s important that parents take their children for a sight test’
Ms Topia added: ‘It’s important to remember that conditions such as lazy eye can have a detrimental impact on social and academic development as well as career options later in life.
‘Parents should take their children for a sight test.
‘They are NHS-funded for those below the age of 16 and it’s the best way to make sure conditions are picked up and treated early.
‘As a rule of thumb, it is good for children to have their first sight test around the age of three, but children can have a sight test at any age if a problem is suspected.’