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October 12, 2020

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Eye health is so important yet can be something that many of us take for granted until it’s too late. Parents really need to start paying better attention to our kids’ eyes.

A trip to the optometrist to check your kids’ eyes, can detect more than just vision problems. An eye exam can uncover more than 270 different medical conditions, including: diabetes, heart disease and stroke risk, as well as cataracts, glaucoma, or retinal disorders such as macular degeneration.

And of course, it’s not just older adults that need to get their eyes checked, children should get regular tests too.

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According to the 2020 Vision Index, almost four in five (79%) Australian parents believe their children have great eyesight.  However only 68% of Australian parents have taken their children to have their eyes examined by an optometrist.

Of those children who have visited an optometrist, one in three (35%) have required prescription glasses – contradicting most parents’ belief that there is nothing wrong with their kids’ eyes and vision.

Thursday 8 October was World Sight Day and acts as a reminder for all Australians to visit their optometrist to get their eyes checked. For mums, taking your kids’ eyes to be checked from a young age is important to ensure their eye health is maintained and in good order.

We spoke to Narelle Hine from HineSight Optometrist about eye health in children.

When should kids first visit an optometrist?

I recommend a routine first eye examination from the age of 4 years for all children, earlier if the parents suspect their child’s eye movement and appearance is not normal. By four, most children can at least read numbers on a chart and even more young children these days can read, which allows more accurate testing, especially of their near focus ability.

Fortunately, 90% of four-year-old children have normal test results for their age in chart reading, eye muscle co-ordination and health of the internal eyes. Ensuring good vision ability before starting school is important because 80% of what children learn is visual.

Is bad eyesight genetic?

Risk factors for children developing poor vision are heavily related to the parents’ vision and eye health because so much about vision is genetic inheritance. If for example, both parents are short sighted (myopic) your child has at least a 70% chance of becoming short-sighted too.

Environment factors may also lead to children developing myopia, including too much screen time and not enough time spent outdoors.

How often should parents get their kids’ eyes tested?

I suggest monitoring for change by testing your child every 1 to 2 years, depending on their test results. However, don’t take a chance thinking that your child will tell you if they can’t see, generally they don’t realise that they have a problem in the first place.

What if my kids’ eyes and vision is getting worse and worse?

If your child is developing increasing myopia (short-sightedness) and needing thicker lenses every year, I prefer early intervention with new contact lens-based therapies centred on Myopia Control. Glasses alone are proving not to slow vision demise in children whereas the myopia control contact lenses do.

Narelle Hine runs her own practice HineSight Optometrist in the City of Sydney. She has extensive experience in clinical eye care and disease screening, contact lens prescribing and relieving the chronic visual fatigue of screen users. She regularly presents continuing education topics at Optometry conferences around Australia and retains a strong interest in contact lens research. Narelle Hine is working with Johnson & Johnson VISION to promote World Sight Day (8th October 2020).

How often do you get your kids’ eyes tested? Tell us in the comments below.

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  • My son just had his done- school nurse was concerned over one aspect of his test. Optometrist did full test and said his eyes are actually really good. He’s 5.

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  • My sons both get their eyes checked every two years. They both wear glasses too.

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  • I agree in principle with getting eyes checked for ‘problems’ however there is a mass of evidence that children exposed to screens and lack of outdoor time develop PROGRESSIVE MYOPIA. SUnlight is protective against close up work, but we don’t seem to recognize that. Homework means even after school kids aren’t getting enough outside time. The problem with going down the ‘prescription glasses’ path for myopia is that it does worsen BECAUSE of the glasses. There is a whole heap of information at EndMyopia.Org which goes against main stream optometry but which makes scientific sense. The eye ball is round, when vision is perfectly corrected the centre gets great images but the eye ball periphery gets the hyper-optic defocus signal (ie the image is behind the retina and so the eye-ball grows longer and so the myopia worsens). My eyes and my husband’s are awful, mine are worse and it goes back generations on my father;s side. Thankfully my kids have 20/20 vision due to 1) BEING OUTSIDE A LOT, 2) Not going down the prescription glasses path when there was a slight myopia problem around 12. That has GONE and the kids are fine now. I’m also improving (or attempting to) using the End Myopia method of slight under-prescription, no glasses time and using active focus to clear blur without glasses.

    Of those children who have visited an optometrist, one in three (35%) have required prescription glasses – contradicting most parents’ belief that there is nothing wrong with their kids’ eyes and vision.


    • p.s. the last quote from the article is that 1 in 3 need glasses… there is massive over prescription going on which worsens myopia.

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  • Both my husband and I wear glasses so we’ve been getting our child’s eyes tested every year when we have our tests, thankfully she doesn’t need glasses yet.

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  • My kids haven’t had an official eye test but neither of them have flagged any issues either. They can easily see the board from a distance and can read books up close.

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  • Oh I am glad I read this! I thought you got them tested once they start school, my son is 4 so I will book it in to get him tested :)

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  • Really great info, I think one of my toddlers needs to have his eyes assessed!

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  • I wonder how accurate it could be though as they’re kids!


    • I don’t think they’re very accurate indeed.
      My 6yr old has Down syndrome and hardly knows the letters of the alphabet and hardly comprehends questions asked about her vision and frankly refuses to cooperate because she is scared for every examination. How in the world can they then make their conclusions based on how she looks / or not looks to a picture ? sounds very ivy to me

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  • have had them all tested.. optometrist said it was quite hard to test young children though.

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  • My bub is only 1 but I’ll make note to take her when she’s 4!
    Hopefully she takes after hubby who has good eyesight and not after me.
    I found that wearing glasses made my eyesight worse as they would rely on them all the time!

    Reply

  • My kids were tested at age 4 and all was well. However my eldest was in yr 8 when she suddenly said she couldn’t see so well in her left eye. Turned out her eyes were rather bad and needed very strong glasses. The discrepancy between her 2 eyes was +5 (the glasses of her left eye are +7).
    My youngest sees an eye specialist from early age, and eventhough she is close on top of everything and school started enlarging everything for her; the eye specialist doesn’t think she needs glasses…

    Reply

  • I have just recently got my sons eyes checked. He is in year 1 and the teacher told me that she thinks he needs glasses. He got really excited about getting ones but when he got his eyes checked we found out that his vision is perfect.


    • Aw poor boy, now he doesn’t get to pick glasses ;) maybe he can chose some nice sunglasses !

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  • My son has his 1st eye check at 10months and the when he was 3yo

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  • The ACT tests every kindy kid – that’s a really good start.

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  • I agree with early testing and regular testing for eyes and vision.

    Reply

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