What keeps me up at night: uncorrected refractive errors in children

Do you know what keeps me up at night?  It’s the fact that there’s a really high percentage of kids out there who need glasses to see well, and they don’t have them.  It sounds overly dramatic to say that, but there are a lot of kids out there, who, if they had glasses, would have good vision.  But they don’t have glasses, so they don’t see well.  And I think that’s a real problem.

Having watched Zoe, and so many other kids in the Little Four Eyes community, flourish and do so well in their glasses, it hurts to think that there are so many kids who are struggling to see unnecessarily.  Who don’t know that they could be seeing the board in school more clearly, who don’t know that the fuzzy squiggles on a page should be sharp, distinct letters, who don’t realize that the green smudges on the trees are individual leaves.

How big of a problem is it?  Big enough that I decided to try to make an infographic to help visualize it.

infographic tall

And if you think that’s bad, there are studies that show an even bleaker picture:  According to a study of first graders in California published in 2011, 8% of those children should be wearing glasses.  Less than 1/2 of one percent of those children who need them had glasses.

And it’s not just a problem in the US.  The World Health Organization estimated in 2004 that nearly 13 million children between the ages of 5 and 15 are visually impaired due to a refractive error that would be corrected with glasses.

There’s a lot of reasons for this, but they’re all equally upsetting to me:

  • The vision problems aren’t caught.  Either because the child’s vision hasn’t been checked, or because a vision problem was missed during a screening.
  • Even when a vision problem is found, a lot of parents don’t take their child for a follow up appointment with an eye care provider, either because they cannot do so financially, they don’t understand the importance, or they don’t believe their child needs glasses.
  • Even when a child is given glasses, many are not wearing them a year later, usually because the glasses have been lost or broken.

I know that I can’t solve all these problems, and thankfully, there are a lot of great groups out there already that are working on these issues.  But I do think that we as parents here in the amazing Little Four Eyes community are in a unique position to help.

We’re doing some things already:

  • The community here at Little Four Eyes has helped many parents feel better about their child needing glasses, and I hope has inspired at least a few to go ahead and follow up with an eye appointment and getting glasses if they’re needed.
  • I’ve started a photo album on our facebook group (you must be a member to see it) for photos that can be shared with non-profit and educational groups.  I am occasionally contacted by groups who are looking for pictures of kids in glasses to use in educational materials  If you are willing to share a picture of your child, please upload the picture to that album, or if you’re not on facebook, email it to me at ann@shinypebble.com.
  • The Great Glasses Play Day this August is not just a day to get together to celebrate our kids in glasses, but it’s also a chance to raise awareness of just how important it is to catch and treat vision issues early.

But I know there is more that we can do.  I’m hoping to create materials for doctors to give to parents who’ve just learned their young child needs glasses, based on what I’ve learned through this group.  I’d love to connect other parents who are interested in spreading awareness with childrens’ librarians and early childhood educators to help get the word out to parents before they take their child to a screening or exam.  And I know a lot of you probably have great ideas and connections, and I’d love to hear about them!

More reading:

5 responses to “What keeps me up at night: uncorrected refractive errors in children

  1. This is a great study Ann – and wonderful graphic! Thanks for sharing. I love your idea to create info for parents who’s children have recently been diagniosed with eye issues. I found it so frustrating when it happened to us, that there wasn’t any info at the doctors offices on groups, what other parents were doing, etc. I found you and a few other blogs during emotional, late night internet searches hoping to find answers & a community! And I did!


  2. Pingback: World Sight Day 2014: No More Avoidable Blindness | little four eyes·

  3. Pingback: Happy World Sight Day – No more avoidable blindness! | The Great Glasses Play Day!·

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