Child myopia epidemic
Thousands of children will be immediately disadvantaged in 2018 as they start, or return to school, because they simply cannot see properly.
According to the peak professional body for optometrists, Optometry Australia, a boom in childhood myopia – or short sightedness – means that more children than ever are at risk of being sight poor.
Luke Arundel, resident optometrist for Optometry Australia said, “Myopia, particularly in children, is growing at astonishing rates, yet the rate of children having eye examinations is modest in comparison
“In 2016, only 8% of children aged 0-14 in Australia had a comprehensive vision assessment. We believe that parents, and teaching staff, do not have enough awareness of the issues caused by myopia, and vision problems generally,” Mr Arundel said.
“The impact of not being able to see properly cannot be underestimated, particularly amongst school-aged children who may not be able to see their teacher, blackboards or education aids properly and may fall behind in learning and then start to lose confidence. They could also start to be excluded from sports and other group activities because they simply cannot see to participate properly.
“Critically, a child will not understand that they have poor vision because they assume everyone sees the world the same way they do.
“We urge all parents to have their child vision assessed before they start school and then regularly through their school years as their bodies will grow so rapidly during this period."
In Australia, approximately one in five Australian children suffers from an undetected vision problem and it is Optometry Australia’s mission to reduce this.
"Our task is made all that much harder though, if awareness of the need to assess children’s vision is not high on the agenda of parents, and busy teaching staff may miss some of the signs. Early detection is key,” Mr Arundel said.
Replacing ‘screen’ time with ‘green’ time to help limit short sightedness
Optometry Australia is an active campaigner for increased outdoor time for children.
The organisation supports the findings of Associate Professor Scott Read of QUT's School of Optometry and Vision Science that children should spend more than an hour, and preferably at least two hours, a day outside to help prevent myopia.
Prof Read’s research suggested that ‘near work’ on computer and other screens does not itself cause myopia, although screens are responsible for children spending more time indoors than in previous years.
Signs that your child may have vision problems:
- 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 ahead
If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, see an optometrist. To find an optometrist in your area and for more information on healthy eyes, see goodvisionforlife.com.au.
19 January 2019.