A relief takes over the parents’ face when I tell them that their child has a normal vision when they bring them in for a routine eye examination. These parents stumble into my care from school referrals or have known family history of eye conditions, or word-of-mouth through friends. However, when it comes to their children’s health, they all share a common emotion: anxious about any vision problems.
Sadly, the prevalence of visual impairment is increasing accounting for up to 20% of the population in the world1. At present, refractive errors account for the majority of untreated visual problems with myopia contributing between 3 to 76% in children under 172, hyperopia contributing between 0.75 to 20%3, and astigmatism around 20-25% of the population4. In milder cases, these conditions will not have any detrimental effects on the child’s visual systems; however, refractive errors can change and deteriorate over time5. In higher degrees of refractive errors, amblyopia or lazy eye can develop due to the inability of the eye(s) to focus5. Other factors such as congenital cataracts, retinal disorders can cause visual disorders6.
In Australia, the Sydney Paediatric Eye Study revealed a high proportion of children with hyperopia and/or astigmatism with a fraction of those investigated becoming amblyopic6. The lack of visual support to focus clearly can negatively affect children’s learning, causing anxiety, reluctance and possibly requiring disciplinary actions in the classroom.
The World Health Organization (WHO) aims to control children’s blindness by 2020 through the Right to Sight programme7. With this website, I hope to educate parents, allied health professionals and even children themselves the importance of their vision, their eye conditions and ways to manage these conditions. However, I stress the importance of routinely seeing your local optometrist to assess and manage their visual needs.
- Pi, L.-H., et al. (2012). “Prevalence of eye diseases and causes of visual impairment in school-aged children in Western China.” Journal of epidemiology22(1): 37-44.
- Kleinstein RN, Jones LA, Hullett S, et al. Refractive Error and Ethnicity in Children. Arch Ophthalmol.2003;121(8):1141–1147. doi:10.1001/archopht.121.8.1141
- Castagno, V. D., et al. (2014). “Hyperopia: a meta-analysis of prevalence and a review of associated factors among school-aged children.” BMC ophthalmology14: 163-163.
- Lisa O’Donoghue, Karen M. Breslin, Kathryn J. Saunders; The Changing Profile of Astigmatism in Childhood: The NICER Study. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci.2015;56(5):2917-2925. doi: 10.1167/iovs.14-16151.
- Repka, M.X., A Close Look at Pediatric Eye Disease.Ophthalmology, 2014. 121(3): p. 617-618.
- Pai, A. S.-I., Wang, J. J., Samarawickrama, C., Burlutsky, G., Rose, K. A., Varma, R., … Mitchell, P. (2011). Original article: Prevalence and Risk Factors for Visual Impairment in Preschool Children. The Sydney Paediatric Eye Disease Study. Ophthalmology, 118, 1495–1500. https://doi-org.ezp.lib.unimelb.edu.au/10.1016/j.ophtha.2011.01.027
- Gilbert, C., & Foster, A. (2003). Childhood blindness in the context of VISION 2020–the right to sight. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 79(3), 227-32.