Keeping your child’s eyes healthy
“There are many noticeable signs that your child might be struggling with their vision, but others might be harder to identify,” explains Mr Arundel.
“While not all signs point to an eye or vision problem, an eye examination with an optometrist is the most effective way to rule out any possible vision problems.”
He says the signs of vision problems in children include:
- Difficulty reading, such as skipping and confusing words, or holding books very close while reading.
- Headaches or complaints of blurred or double vision.
- Squinting or expressing difficulty in seeing objects in the distance.
- Eye strain and noticeable head tilts when looking at something.
- Frequent blinking or eye rubbing.
- Red or watery eyes.
- One eye turning in or out while the other points straight ahead.
Mr Arundel emphasises that it is vital for parents to educate their children about the importance of eye health early.
“Not only will this help ensure their child speaks up when they notice issues with or changes in their vision, but it’ll also help them to understand the value of sight and not to take their eye health for granted,” he says.
In a typical eye examination, the optometrist will examine the child’s eyes to make sure they are healthy, and that their vision is developing normally in both eyes, explains Mr Arundel.
“They will test vision and whether there is a need for glasses or contact lenses, eye movements and function and ocular health.”
He says that optometrists understand that eye tests can sometimes feel scary and intimidating, especially for young children, however, they do use special child-friendly tests that allow children to identify shapes, letters and pictures.
“After the eye examination, the optometrist will tell the parent if their child requires prescription glasses,” he adds.
“If they do, it is often to correct long-sightedness, short-sightedness or astigmatism.”
Astigmatism is a common and treatable eye condition that relates to the curvature of the eye and causes blurred vision at all distances.
National preschool vision screening
The Vision Index found that parents were most likely to take their children to the optometrist because their child failed a vision screening test at school.
“There are early childhood vision screening programs established in some states and territories, which all operate differently,” explains Mr Arundel.
“But there isn’t a nationally coordinated vision screening program for preschool children.
“Optometry Australia has worked with Vision 2020 Australia and other vision and eye health stakeholders to advocate for all states and territories to implement screening programs for 3.5 to five-year old’s that meet specific standards.
“These standards are directed at ensuring all children can access effective screening and are supported to access follow-up care if required.”
Mr Arundel recommends that even if a child has undergone a vision screening, parents should still take their child for a comprehensive eye examination with an optometrist.
He explains that while vision screenings are a good starting point, they often don’t pick up on all the vision problems that can impact children.