We urge parents to be aware of changes to children’s sight, following the finding in a new report

A new report, Britain’s Eye Health in Focus, reveals almost one in 10 parents (9%) can’t remember the last time their child went for a sight test or believe it has been over 10 years since their last one.

Published today, the report reveals almost one in 10 parents (9%) can’t remember the last time their child went for a sight test or believe it has been over 10 years since their last test.

The latest Britain’s Eye Health in Focus report – which looks into how people view their eye health and the role of the optometrist – also shows that although 70% of parents see sight tests as ‘very important’ for their children’s health, a quarter of parents (25%) admitted their child has never had a sight test – a significant increase on the 2011 figure of 14%*.

Bish Ashleigh, a member of the College and an optometrist with a special interest in paediatric optometry, agrees with Francesca Marcetti who said: “If you are worried your child might have a problem with their eyes then they are never too young to have them examined. It’s essential that any problems are picked up at an early stage when they are more likely to be treated effectively. Children won’t necessarily say ‘I can’t see that’ or know what is normal when it comes to their vision”.

At age four to five, all children are supposed to be screened at school for vision problems, such as lazy eye and squints, which may be hard to treat if not diagnosed at that early age. However, screening provision is patchy. A Which? survey carried out in 2011 showed that one in five primary care trusts was not screening children for vision problems. Provision is particularly bad outside state schools and for children with learning difficulties – who are 10 times more likely to have problems with their sight. If your child is not screened at school or you are ever worried they might have a problem with their eyes then you should take them for a full sight test. Bish has identified several young children from local schools with potentially lazy eyes but, fortunately, in most cases parents were vigilant enough to bring them to him for a thorough paedriatric eye test which was early enough to identify and remedy potential long-term problems in learning.

Bish and Francesca believe that optometrists play a key role in bridging the gap in those areas of the UK where school vision programmes are not in place: “Optometrists can play a significant role in detecting and recognising conditions that may affect a child’s sight by ensuring children receive the appropriate vision tests early enough to make effective treatment, if needed, possible”

Many parents, Bish included, used to have sight tests and dental checks at schools and there’s an expectation that it will be the same for their children. However, dental checks do not get done and sight tests are very rarely carried out in schools today. School vision screening should not be confused with a full eye examination and is not designed to be a comprehensive check of eye health. Problems with vision can hinder a child’s development which is why we encourage parents to remain vigilant to any changes and to book an appointment with their optometrist if they notice anything that concerns them.”

Further information

Parents looking for further information on keeping their children’s eyes healthy can visit www.lookafteryoureyes.org for top tips and advice on spotting changes to the eyes.