Earlier this year, Prevent Blindness released their 2016 report on children’s vision and eye health and the results were chilling. Sight is our most precious sense. Without it children would be unable to play, learn, draw, read, write, give you hugs and the list goes on and on.
According to Prevent Blindness’ report, lack of eye care for children is a problem that is currently facing the whole country. Even with schools implementing mandatory eye screenings at the start of the school year, it isn’t adequate care.
These screenings check for the bare minimums. Can the eye see far? Yes? Good, next!
We use our eyes every day and yet sometimes we forget about them. We forget that our eyes need to be taken care of. Our own eyes aside, we’ve let our bad habits affect our children who are now suffering because of it. It’s time to set a good example for our children and get everyone’s eyes checked!
Read on for a rundown of the main points in Prevent Blindness’ 2016 report about children’s eye health.
Prevalence and Impact of Vision Disorders in U.S. Children
While the eye continues to develop in children and into their teen years, a lot of change is happening. That change includes growing out of and sometimes growing into vision conditions. When left untreated, these conditions can worsen and follow your children into adulthood. By then it may be too late to do anything about the vision condition.
Some of the vision disorders mentioned in the report are:
- Vision loss
- Amblyopia (commonly referred to as lazy eye)
- Refractive errors including myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism
The report shows that refractive errors are among the most common vision conditions found in children. A refractive error happens when the light entering the eye is not being refracted in the retina properly.
Often when these refractive errors go uncorrected in young children it is because they are mistakenly diagnosed as cognitive developmental issues as opposed to what they really are: a vision impairment.
A number of factors can play into the cause of vision conditions in children. Some are born blind or with other vision conditions. Some babies can even be born with cataracts but this is an extremely rare occurrence.
Other causes of vision disorders include genetics or a family history of vision disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders and premature birth. According to the report, these are very common explanations for refractive errors in children.
Access to Care
Unfortunately, when a child doesn’t get the eye care they deserve and need, it isn’t always because parents forget or think it isn’t as important as other aspects of their child’s health. Sometimes parents simply can’t afford the cost that comes with eye care and eye exams for children.
As a study in the report shows, white children of higher income families are more likely to be diagnosed with vision conditions. This doesn’t mean that non-white children of lower income families don’t develop vision conditions. It means that those in a lower income bracket can’t afford eye exams for their children.
Strange how in a case such as this, being diagnosed with a vision disorder is actually a relief. When disorders are caught early and treated correctly, they are effective and long lasting.
The high cost of health care and the required treatments are not things everyone can afford, especially those living below the poverty line. Because of this children suffer in school, in sports, on the playground and are overall being forced into having a lower quality of life.
In a study mentioned in the report, a group of fifth graders who wore glasses or needed to wear glasses, 14 percent said they went a year without new or replacement glasses because their parents could not afford it.
Out of those same fifth graders, those who did have health insurance (either private or public) only 15 percent had coverage for vision care. This lack of access to care doesn’t just extend to low income families, but also to those with health care that, for one reason or another, doesn’t cover eye health.
This now becomes an issue of lack of awareness on the parts of health insurance companies, who don’t believe eye health is something to worry about. Insurance companies are selectively covering aspects of health, but not giving you or your children the full coverage they need.
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State Approaches to Ensuring Children’s Vision and Eye Health
Thankfully, there are some states looking out for your children’s eye health. States have taken it upon themselves to take action against lack of care and to raise awareness about eye health in general and vision disorders among children.
Ohio is in the midst of setting up a system that surveys individual and the population’s overall vision health. By doing so they’ll gather data about regular screenings for children to better asses how many are getting the proper care. This is the first step in getting to the root of the problem of lack of care.
The Pediatric Physicians’ Organization at the Children’s (PPOC) in Massachusetts recognizes the importance of regular eye screening for children. The organization has brought vision care to 400,000 children in 90 of their facilities across the state. They continue to strive to improve their screening systems.
Arizona has seen a change in payment options for those enlisted with the state’s health insurance, AHCCCS. With this change in payment, when you pay for an eye screening it must happen at the same time as a regular check-up. This will force doctors to perform more eye screenings.
Eye Screenings vs. Diagnosis
Of course an eye screening can only go so far, but they’ll get you far enough. These new systems implementing eye screenings have the best intentions at heart. States just want what’s best for the children and their health.
By providing more children with regular screenings, it will help with diagnosing vision conditions that would otherwise go unnoticed. If something appears to be wrong with a child’s eye health, they will often be referred to a specialist who could treat them more effectively.
The purpose of Prevent Blindness’ report was to raise awareness about children’s eye health and the impact it can have on young lives. Prevent Blindness held a mirror up to our nation and picked out the flaws in our eye health systems but also showed us how we’re already taking steps to improve.