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Children suffer as councils fail to offer eye tests

There are concerns that children are at risk of developing learning problems due to not being given eye tests while at primary school


The College of Optometrists says that fewer than a third of local councils are following national screening guidelines.

Early tests can pick up problems before too much vision is lost.

Dr Susan Blakeney, Clinical Adviser to the College of Optometrists said: “It’s clear that the nationally recommended childhood vision screening programme in schools is somewhat of a postcode lottery.”

“Our investigation serves to highlight how important it is for parents to make sure they’re thinking about their child’s sight from an early age – we really want to encourage parents to be more aware of the signs and symptoms to look out for that may indicate a problem.

“Untreated vision problems may manifest themselves as problems with learning; it’s hard to read well if you can’t see properly.

“Most children will be fine, but if you have specific concerns or there’s a family history of eye problems, such as needing strong glasses in childhood or having a squint or a lazy eye, then visit your local optometrist for a check-up.”

According to the UK National Screening Committee, testing of children’s eyes should be offered to all those aged four to five years. 

One of the main problems affecting that particular age group is a condition called Amblyopia.

This is when the eye doesn’t work properly and although it can be a very mild problem it can become more serious if left untreated or if sight in the other eye is lost or damaged.

According to figures it affects around four per cent of children.

Amongst other problems affecting the eyes of youngsters include refractive error (short or long sight) and strabismus (squint).

The College of Optometrists has advised parents to be aware of the signs that their child might have vision problems.

Signs include excessive eye rubbing, watery eyes, sitting very close to the television or books, clumsiness or poor hand-eye coordination.

Children who avoid reading or drawing or who close one eye when reading or concentrating on an object should also be checked out.

A study published earlier this year by Ulster University found that the rate of short-sightedness in Britain has doubled over the past 50 years.

Twenty-three per cent of British 12 and 13-year-olds now suffer from myopia, which causes distant objects to appear blurred – compared to 10 per cent in the 1960s.

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