The Association of Optometrists (AOP) has advised that parents taking their children to see 3D blockbuster Despicable Me 3 this summer should look out for warning signs that their child might have an undiagnosed vision problem.
Vision problems in children can often go unnoticed as Wolverhampton Mum, Zoey Lacey, found out. Mrs Lacey says that her two-year-old daughter, Kristalie’s, poor vision was not apparent; ‘I didn't realise at all how much she needed them [her glasses] as she seemed fine in finding things at home and walking around’. However, noticing that Kristalie had a turn in her eye (or squint) Mrs Lacey took her to be tested. It was revealed that Kristalie had long sightedness, or ‘hypermetropia’, a condition that often develops into lazy eye if left untreated.
The AOP advises that Kristalie’s case is not unique; in a recent survey of the Association’s optometrist members, the majority said that at least one in five school children tested have an undiagnosed sight problem that requires correction.1 This supports previous figures which indicate one million children in the UK have undiagnosed vision problems.2
3D films, such as Despicable Me 3, can help make sure vision problems don’t go unnoticed by helping parents to spot the signs early. Optometrist and AOP spokesperson, Ceri Smith-Jaynes, explains: “Difficulty watching 3D films comfortably can be an early sign of vision problems. To be able to get the full 3D effect and view the film with ease, you need good binocular vision – both eyes seeing clearly and working together. If something upsets that balance, it can lead to reduced vision – known as amblyopia (or ‘lazy eye’) – in one or both eyes and poor 3D vision. And, if the problem only affects one eye it can easily go unnoticed. Signs to look out for at the cinema include children failing to appreciate the 3D effect, feeling dizzy or experiencing headaches.”
Kristalie now wears specially adapted children’s glasses, provided by local Prab Boparai Opticians, which Mrs Lacey said have had a remarkable effect; ‘When Kristalie tried on her glasses for the first time her reaction was overwhelming, I almost cried seeing the ‘wow' look upon her little face when she could finally see ‘mummy's’ face clearly. Now she’ll wake up and want her glasses on almost straight away – once they’re on she smiles and says “see you”.’
Practice owner and optometrist, Prab Boparai, said that the case demonstrates just how important sight tests are for young children. She said: ‘It’s easy for a child’s vision problem to go unnoticed as a child can’t always tell what is clear or blurred, so a routine visit to the optometrists is essential. Particularly before they start school.’
Top five signs your child may need a sight test:
- An eye appearing to drift inwards or outwards
- Difficulty concentrating
- Frequent eye rubbing or eye straining
- Holding their head at an unusual angle
Top tips for keeping your child’s eyes healthy
- Get them outdoors – regular play and exercise can help prevent or reduce the development of myopia (short-sightedness). Studies show two hours of outdoor activity a day is ideal3
- Using night settings, if your device has them, can aid sleep by decreasing the amount of blue light emitted by the screen during night time hours
- Make sure digital devices are turned off at least an hour before bedtime
- Book your child in for a sight test every two years, from the age of three, or more often if your optometrist recommends it
More advice on how to care for your child’s vision can be found in the AOP’s leaflet on children’s eye health and 60 second advice video, Children’s vision and 3D films. Information on a range of conditions, and general tips for looking after eyes, is available in the ‘For patients’ section of the AOP website.
For more information, please contact Emily Campbell, PR and Marketing Officer, at the Association of Optometrists; EmilyCampbell@aop.org.uk or telephone 020 7549 2040, or Serena Box, PR and Media Manager; SerenaBox@aop.org.uk or telephone 020 7549 2063.
Notes to Editors
Association of Optometrists
The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is the leading representative membership organisation for optometrists in the UK. We support our community of more than 17,000 members to fulfil their professional roles to protect the nation’s eye health. As a founding member of the Optical Confederation we work with others to improve eye health for the public good. For more information, visit www.aop.org.uk
Sights tests and vision screening
Some children have their vision screened at school – this is usually a basic test, designed to pick up those children who have reduced vision in one or both eyes. If a problem is suspected, children will usually be referred to an optometrist for a full sight test. Parents may assume that their child has been screened at school but this does not happen in all areas of the country. Even where this does happen, it is not usually until the age of four or five, so we recommend that all children visit their optometrist for a sight test around the age of three.
A sight test is a comprehensive check which can pick up many other conditions, including colour vision defects, problems with the development of 3D vision and any need for glasses. More information on children’s eye health can be found on the AOP website’s patient advice section.
Zoe and Kristalie’s story
Zoey Lacey took two-year-old Kristalie to be examined after she noticed a squint in her daughter’s eye. Tests revealed that Kristalie had long sightedness or ‘hypermetropia’. Following her diagnosis Kristalie was fitted with specially adapted children’s glasses.
Kristalie’s optometrist, Prab Boparai, commented, ‘as Kristalie demonstrates, having issues picked up early can prevent amblyopia, or ‘a lazy eye’, and really improves present and future quality of life’.
For Zoe and Kristalie’s full case study please contact the AOP press office on the contact details above. Images of Zoe and Kristalie can be found in this Dropbox folder.
- Effect of time spent outdoors at school on the development of myopia among children in China. Randomized clinical trial
- Findings from the AOP Voice of Optometry insight panel, the survey was conducted by independent research company, Alpha Research between March – May 2017
- Up to one million children in the UK currently have an undetected vision problem. Statistics provided by the Eyecare Trust and based on DCSF 2009 School Census 0-12 year olds