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.
Optometry Australia’s resident optometrist Luke Arundel said that it is difficult to pinpoint why there has been a decline but urges parents to help reverse this concerning trend. He warns that while some signs of vision problems are obvious, others 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 crucial for children to have a full eye examination with an optometrist before starting school and then regular visits as they progress through primary and secondary school, as part of their general health regime,” Mr Arundel said.
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.
Mr Arundel said that this makes eye examinations at an early age more important than ever.
In the lead up to World Sight Day on 8 October, Optometry Australia 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 ahead
World Sight Day (WSD) is an annual day of awareness held on the second Thursday of October, to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment.
For more information on optometry services in Australia, including finding your local optometrist visit the Optometry Australia website.
- Trinity Scarf, Optometry Australia – 0413 581 769 or email@example.com
- Kerry I’Anson, Optometry Australia – 0419 004 920 or firstname.lastname@example.org