A Yorkshire optician is calling for children to have their eyes checked after finding one in five children has an undiagnosed vision problem which could cause problems in later life.
Optometrist Moin Valli and his team tested 600 reception-aged children in Huddersfield and found a fifth had trouble with their sight.
While eye tests and glasses are available free on the NHS for under 16s, many parents do not take their children to an optician unless the child reports having trouble reading or seeing the whiteboard at school.
This means eye problems often go under the radar as many children never mention or do not know they are having difficulties with their eyesight until it is too late, Mr Valli said.
Some conditions are reversible when caught early and can prevent lifelong eyesight problems, so it is vital that children are screened before the age of eight.
In extreme cases, it can impact certain career choices in later life including working in the police, joining the army or becoming a pilot.
Over the last year, Mr Valli’s team volunteered at 12 schools in Kirklees, screening four and five-year-olds for common eyesight problems.
Mr Valli said: “Some children had vision so poor that they couldn’t see very large pictures until their face was almost up against the screen. This can create a huge educational and development problem in the classroom.
“Research shows that 80 per cent of learning at school is visual, so eyesight problems can leave some children at a massive disadvantage.”
The opticians also found children in less affluent areas were more likely to have undiagnosed conditions.
The research aligns with figures from the Association of Optometrists which show one in seven, equivalent to a million children, in Britain have undiagnosed eyesight problems.
Mr Valli is calling for the personal child health record, also known as the Red Book, which is given to parents on the birth of their child, to signpost parents towards opticians.
Currently, the guide, which is produced by the National Screening Committee to help new parents keep on top of their baby’s development, advises parents to take children to doctors and dentists for check-ups but does not mention opticians.
“I’m not calling for a new service, as children are already entitled to free eye tests, just better signposting to a service that already exists,” Mr Valli, who has launched a petition to change the wording, added.
The National Screening Committee has been approached for a comment.