Approximately one in five Australian children suffers from an undetected vision problem, or requires ongoing assessment.
Yet recent Medicare statistics have shown a decline in the per capita use of initial optometric services by children, despite their crucial need for good vision to have the best chance of reaching their full potential.
While in 2011-12 and 2012-13 Medicare figures showed increases in visits by children aged up to 14 to an optometrist, 2013-14 showed decreases for those up to the age of 4.
Alarmingly, 2014-15 has continued this trend with a sharp decline in optometric services to children of all ages up to 14, prompting the concern of peak body Optometry Australia.
Whilst it is difficult to pinpoint why there has been a decline but parents to help reverse this concerning trend. Eyecare Kids optometrists regularly educates parents and teachers on signs of vision problems that are obvious but some are hard to identify, and children themselves usually can’t tell there is anything wrong as they assume everyone sees the world as they do.
This makes it important for children to have a full eye examination with an optometrist before starting school and then have regular visits as they progress through primary and secondary school, as part of their general health regime.
‘Every 7 year child when going to school should take along a certificate from an optometrist that says I’ve had my eyes tested and I can see. Every 11 year old going to secondary school should do the same’ – the late Prof Brien Holden, Brien Holden Institute
Issues such as an increase in ‘screen time’, with many children spending more time indoors on smartphones, tablets and computers has been implicated in an increase in children with myopia (short sightedness) in recent years. This makes eye examinations at an early age more important than ever.
Eyecare Kids Optometrists is encouraging parents to look out for signs of vision problems, and take their children to an optometrist for an examination.
Some signs of vision problems in children can include:
- Noticeable tilting or turning of the head when the child is looking at something
- Frequent blinking or rubbing of the eyes
- Red or watery eyes
- Difficulty reading, such as skipping and confusing words, and holding a book very close while reading
- Complaints of headaches and blurred or double vision
- Squinting or having difficulty recognising things or people in the distance
- One eye turning in or out while the other points straight