Undetected vision problems holding kids back

Optometry Australia (OA) has warned that thousands of children risk falling behind at school due to the increasing prevalence of undiagnosed myopia and other vision-related issues.

The peak national body cited statistics that indicated only 8% of Australian children aged 0–14 had had a comprehensive vision assessment in 2016, despite an estimated one in five suffering from an undetected vision problem.

OA’s resident optometrist, Mr Luke Arundel, said a lack of awareness was the primary cause for the low rate and that it was important for the public to understand the potential consequences undetected vision problems could have.

“The impact of not being able to see properly cannot be underestimated. Particularly amongst school-aged children, who may not be able to see their teacher, blackboards or education aids properly and may fall behind in learning and then start to lose confidence,” Arundel said.

“It’s an underserviced segment of the community. If you look at what our American colleagues are doing, they’re really pushing even further into children’s optometry and recommending that everyone has a check up at six months of age, then three and then regularly from there.

“It’s an area that’s super important. Poor vision really does effect these kids in a big way, and with 85% of blindness preventable or treatable with early detection we feel it’s also important to get the next generation of Aussies in the habit of regular health checks – something we have been promoting for the entire sector through the goodvisionforlife.com website and media campaigns.”

Arundel also said that while useful for picking up certain conditions, screening in schools was inconsistent and not a substitute for a comprehensive vision assessment.

“There’s certainly a place for vision screenings, but the problem with different state based regulations is there’s no uniformity or consistency across Australia. Some states do a great job, other states are doing a poor job, and it tends to flip-flop depending on who’s in government and how much money is being thrown around,” Arundel told Insight.

“At the end of the day, a screening’s just a screening, and its certainly not going to pick up everything. We recommend that all kids receive a comprehensive eye evaluation with an optometrist before starting school.”


7 Ways to Protect Your Eyes From Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Is the most common cause of vision loss and blindness in Americans over age 50, affecting about 2.1 million people nationwide. Early diagnosis and treatment are the keys to preventing vision loss. During February, the American Academy of Ophthalmology is educating the public about the facts on AMD.

AMD is a degenerative disease that happens when part of the retina called the macula is damaged. It’s the part of the eye that delivers sharp, central vision needed to see objects straight ahead. Over time, the loss of central vision can interfere with everyday activities, such as the ability to drive, read, and see faces clearly.

Ophthalmologists – physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care – have more tools than ever before to diagnose the disease earlier, and to treat it better. But these advances cannot help patients whose disease is undiagnosed, or patients who are unaware of the seriousness of their disease. People’s lack of understanding about AMD is a real danger to public health. A recent study showed that most people with AMD don’t realize it’s a chronic health issue that requires regular attention for the rest of their lives.

The Academy offers these seven steps to help people take control of their eye health:

  1. Get regular comprehensive medical eye exams. AMD often has no early warning signs, so getting regular comprehensive eye exams from an ophthalmologist is critical to diagnosing and treating the eye disease in its early stages. The Academy recommends that adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease get a baseline eye disease screening at age 40 — the time when early signs of disease and changes in vision may start to occur. By age 65, the Academy recommends getting an exam every one to two years, even in the absence of symptoms or eye problems.
  2. Quit smoking. Numerous studies show smoking increases the risk of developing AMD, and the speed at which it progresses. Smokers are twice as likely to develop macular degeneration compared with a nonsmoker.
  3. Eat a well-balanced diet. Many studies demonstrate that eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and nutrient-packed foods, such as salmon and nuts, may reduce the risk of AMD. Research also suggests that patients who ate fresh fish, an important source of omega-3s, were at lower risk of developing AMD.
  4. Take the right kind of vitamins. Vitamins can delay progression of advanced AMD and help people keep their vision longer if they have intermediate AMD or advanced AMD in one eye. But make sure it’s the right combination of vitamins. A recent study found that some of the top-selling products do not contain identical ingredient dosages to eye vitamin formulas proven effective in clinical trials.
  5. Exercise regularly. Exercising three times a week can reduce the risk of developing wet AMD by 70 percent. Studies also show that physical activity may lower the odds of both early and late-stages of AMD.
  6. Monitor your sight with an Amsler Grid. This simple, daily routine takes less than one minute and can help people with AMD save more of their vision. Using this grid is essential to finding any vision changes that are not obvious, so you can report them to your ophthalmologist.
  7. Know your family’s eye health history. If you have a close relative with AMD, you have a 50 percent greater chance of developing the condition. Before your next eye exam, speak with your family about their eye health history. You may need more frequent eye exams based on your family history.

“While new treatments and technologies are helping patients keep more of their vision than ever before, early detection remains your best defense against AMD,” said Rahul N. Khurana, MD, a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Get a baseline, comprehensive exam at age 40. After age 65, get an exam every one to two years, even if you have no symptoms. Your good vision depends on it.”