As an optometrist and as a parent I frequently discuss the importance of regular eye examinations in children. We all wish for our own children to achieve their full potential at school and college and it is well documented that many children suffer at school if their vision is impaired unnecessarily through uncorrected long or short sight where a simple pair of spectacles is all that is needed.
As adults, most of us are aware of the benefits of regular eye examinations for detecting conditions such as cataract, diabetes and glaucoma, but rarely do we make such associations with our children.
The following illustrates why this should not be the case. It involves a friend and colleague of minewho works in the Leicester Royal Infirmary’s Eye Department alongside an experienced and friendly team that reviews new referrals for squints and lazy eyes, which are largely corrected with the use of spectacles.
This is her story, in her words:
“After a recent return to my children’s own optometrist at Simmons Optometrists, I found myself in a rather rare position of being a parent with a child with a rare, sight threatening eye condition.
One of my sons wears spectacles for short sight and attends our own family optometrist at Simmons Optometrists, Oakham on a regular basis. As he needed new spectacles through wear and tear, and was not suffering from any headaches, blurred vision, I had put off his routine eye examination for a few extra weeks as it had clashed with end of summer term exams.
When we finally made it to the eye examination imagine my shock when he was found to have a relatively rare condition, called Iritis. Iritis is not something that is caught from other children, like conjunctivitis, and is often associated with an inflammatory condition known as Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA).
My son is now under the care of Leicester’s Royal Infirmary. Management is long term and he shall be under the hospital for years to come.
My son’s eye condition could only have been diagnosed by using the specialist equipment used almost exclusively by optometrists and hospital eye departments. So my gratitude goes to the specialist care and attention given to us at Simmons Optometrists, who picked up such an unusual eye condition and who have been assisting in its long term co-management with the hospital ever since.
So now my advice to parents upon discussing the importance of children’s eye examinations will include not just the importance of investigating their eyesight for squints or glasses, but also the importance of investigating their child’s eye health. There is no doubt that had we put off this eye examination longer than his regular check, he could have developed long term complications that could have cost a loss of sight in that eye.”
Eye examinations for children are free. And the importance of their sight priceless.