Tens of thousands of children in region struggling to see

Parents have been urged to get their child's eyes tested to ensure there are no issues with their sight.
Parents have been urged to get their child's eyes tested to ensure there are no issues with their sight.

More than 70,000 children across the North East could be living with an undiagnosed vision problem according to health experts.

Nationally, 1.6Million school aged children in England could have an issue with their eye sight which impacts on their educational and social development according to new figures released by National Eye Health Week and Boots Opticians.

Regular eye checks performed on your local high street, by a qualified optometrist and paid for by the NHS are vital to ensure kids live well and fulfil their potential in the classroom.

David Cartwright

Within the region, it an estimated 74,016 are said to be affected.

With up to 85% of perception, learning, cognition and activities facilitated through vision, the team say the quality of a child’s eyesight plays a vital role their development, especially in their early years.

A recent study by a team of UK academics published in the British Medical Journal found a clear link between visual ability in young children and reading and writing levels.

Poor vision in younger children is often due to the presence of Amblyopia - lazy eye - a developmental disorder that leads to reduced vision.

The human eye continues to develop until eight years of age, giving just a small window of time where good vision can be restored through early detection and treatment.

But there are few signs and symptoms to observe so detection is very difficult for parents, carers and teachers.

David Cartwright, chairman National Eye Health Week, said: “As a child’s eyesight is usually fully developed by the age of eight, regular sight tests, every two years unless advised otherwise by your optometrist, are crucial.

“Sight tests for all children in the UK are free and funded by the NHS the only investment parents have to make is time.

“Conditions such as squint or amblyopia can lead to lifelong problems so it really is a case of ‘After Eight is too Late’.

“If detected early amblyopia and squint can often be corrected and other visual problems such as childhood myopia can be managed effectively, yet, 50% per cent of parents with children aged eight and under have never taken their child for a sight test.”

Levels of myopia - short-sight - which typically occurs in childhood between the ages of six and 13, have more than doubled over the last 50 years and currently affect around a fifth of all teenagers in the UK.

Signs of issues can include:

*Rubbing eyes frequently

*Squinting, head-tilting or closing one eye when trying to focus

*One eye turning in or out

*Blinking a lot

*Excessive tearing

*Red, sore or encrusted eye lids

Mr Cartwright added: “Regular eye checks performed on your local high street, by a qualified optometrist and paid for by the NHS are vital to ensure kids live well and fulfil their potential in the classroom.”

A digital resource has been put together to includesseven ways to help keep kids’ eyes healthy, tell-tale signs a child could be struggling with their vision and common childhood eye conditions explained.

There are also links to resources such as the Boots Opticians eye check story book, Zookeeper Zoe which contains a range of interactive eye check activities to help parents and carers understand if their child might need support with their vision.

More information is available via www.visionmatters.org.uk/children or to share Zookeeper Zoe’s adventures visit www.zookeeperzoe.co.uk.