At Zacks London Eye Clinics (Kings Cross, Islington, London N1) and (Warren Street, Fitzrovia, London W1) we see children from birth for NHS 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.
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 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. In older children the incidence of myopia (short-sight) has rapidly increased throughout the world. A recent Swedish study found that 50% of 12 year olds are myopic, expected to rise to 70% by age 18, with over 80% in parts of SE Asia.
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. Coloured overlays and tints can also be used with similar effects in some people (Meares Irlen syndrome). The colour has to be accurately prescribed and is different for everyone. At Zacks London Eye Clinics we provide specialist consultations for children with dyslexia or other learning difficulties (see dyslexia eye examinations).
Zacks Local School Vision Screening Campaign
For local schools we are offering two solutions: