Kids in all regions of the world are affected by a range of eye diseases and conditions that can permanently impact their lives – and even in Australia, 20% of children are affected.
The Brien Holden Vision Institute is running the Sunnies for Sight initiative, initially limited to one day in February but now available to schools when it suits their routine, to encourage children to learn about their vision and about eye problems.
“Many of these conditions are preventable or treatable,” says Amanda Davis, chief operating officer of the Institute. “Pharmacists can play a vital role in early detection.
“With approximately one in five Australian children either with an undetected vision problem or requiring ongoing assessment, it is important to be aware of signs of a vision problem.
“There are a host of warning signs: a few of the more common ones are frequent blinking, red or watery eyes, sensitivity to light and complaints of headaches.
“Leaving an eye problem untreated could have permanent consequences to vision, the most significant being blindness. Vision problems can also lead to other problems, particularly in children during their formative years.”
Ms Davis says that particularly in developed countries like Australia, parents are largely quite aware of the importance of eye health. However, not all children have access to the same level of eye care.
“We are lucky that we have readily available, affordable eye care in major centres and access to eye health professionals in most regional areas,” she says.
“Unfortunately, for people who live in remote locations of Australia eye care can be difficult to obtain.
“Though, for 17 years, the Brien Holden Vision Institute, in partnership with local Aboriginal Medical Services, has been delivering regular eye care services to places where services are limited and in some cases non-existent.”
She says that as well as encouraging parents to take their children to an optometrist for an assessment before starting school, and regularly as they progress through primary and secondary school, pharmacies can also help in their role selling sun protection, including sunglasses.
“Pharmacists can encourage their clientele to practice sun safety by sliding on a pair of sunnies,” she says.
“It is important for children to wear sunglasses to protect their eyes from exposure to dangerous ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation from the sun doesn’t just damage our skin but can lead to serious eye conditions like cataracts and cancers on the surface of the eye.
“Fortunately, under most circumstances, these conditions can be prevented simply by wearing sunglasses.”