At Zacks Eye Clinic in central London (W1) we see children from birth for eye sight tests. Several specialist assessments are performed on young children to ascertain their quality of vision and spectacle prescription. More detailed examinations are available for children with learning difficulties such as dyslexia or those requiring contact lenses or orthokeratology. Most children present for eye sight tests because of concerns raised within the home or school, though many slip through the net.
Dr. Sarah Rauchas
Regular eye examinations are essential to ensure normal visual development. Significant refractive errors or squints left uncorrected during critical periods (up to age 8-10) will result in amblyopia (permanently impaired vision).
Vision Problems in Children
There is considerable research that supports the need for regular testing. Recent UK studies have found that one in five school-age children have some form of undetected vision problems. The US dept of health and human services found that visual impairment affects up to 10% of pre-school children, of which a third have amblyopia (lazy eye) and two thirds have uncorrected refractive errors.
Link: Myopia Control
There is no national framework for vision screening. Pre-school checks are negligible and after school entry there is great regional variability. Tests are usually carried out by the school nurse who assesses vision asking the child to read down a chart of letters or shapes. There is increasing scepticism on the value of this test with several reviews showing little evidence to support its effectiveness. The main issue lies in detecting refractive errors. Undetected, these can cause a number of problems ranging from chronic headaches to under achievement academically.
Vision & Reading Difficulties
Reading difficulties, affecting up to 10% of school children, can be part of a wider spectrum of problems and may be associated with conditions affecting how the eyes work together and focus at near. Often spectacles or simple exercises can be used to overcome these muscle weaknesses to stop symptoms including print moving or jumbling.
Zacks Local School Vision Screening
For local schools we offer two solutions:
- We can provide a letter of information to be given to teachers and parents to increase awareness of child related sight problems and highlight the benefit of regular examinations.
- We can visit the school with a small team of clinicians to provide accurate vision screening assessments. Any children suspected of having visual problems would then be given a letter recommending a more thorough examination at our children’s clinic.