Nearly One-Third of America’s Children Have Never Been to the Eye Doctor
As millions of students nationwide head back to school, the American Optometric Association’s first American Eye-Q survey finds parents lack important knowledge about eye health and vision care.
While millions of children will start school this year with a vision problem that may inhibit their ability to learn, 44 percent of parents are not aware that behavioral problems can be an indication that a child’s vision is impaired. The survey also revealed that only one in 10 parents adhere to the American Optometric Association’s recommendations that an infant be examined before his or her first birthday. Nearly one-third (29 percent) of all children have never been to an eye doctor.
“Vision is a key factor in the growth, development and daily performance of children,” said Andrea Thau, O.D., of the American Optometric Association. “One of the most important things parents can do to help ensure their child’s ability to learn is to take them for a comprehensive eye exam.”
Since vision changes can occur without a parent or child noticing them, children should visit a doctor of optometry at least every two years, or more frequently, if specific problems or risk factors exist. Regular eye exams, starting when a child is six months old, can help ensure parents that their child’s vision is developing normally.
The survey, which evaluated adults’ level of knowledge and their behaviors associated with eye care, revealed that parents should practice better eye care behaviors when it comes to their children. It also showed they should take better care of their own eye health.
Americans admit that their eyesight is one of their most valued attributes, yet 62 percent of Americans who do not currently wear glasses or contacts have not been to an eye doctor in the past two years. Nearly 20 percent of adults have never been to an eye doctor.
“Just like a child, an adult’s eyesight can change rapidly and frequently, particularly in older adults,” said Dr. Thau. “When you consider how many systemic diseases and disorders can be detected, it is imperative that adults visit their optometrist as often as their children.”
More than 60 percent of adults knew that diabetes and hypertension are detectable through comprehensive eye exams; however, only 23 percent were aware that symptoms of multiple sclerosis also may be detected through a comprehensive eye exam.
The survey also revealed that considerable misconceptions exist around behaviors that may be harmful to one’s eyes. More than eight out of 10 adults believe that sitting too close to the television and reading under dim lights will affect their vision. While they both may cause headaches, they won’t weaken a person’s eyesight. Smoking, drinking alcohol and caffeine, however, can be harmful on the eyes.
“Several common behaviors, including the foods we eat, affect vision,” said Dr. Thau. “Nutrition is important to maintain good eye health, and surprisingly, Americans can do better.”
As parents pack their children’s lunch for school, 70 percent of Americans mistakenly believe that carrots are the best food for their eye health, when in fact it has been proven that while carrots are good for the eyes, spinach and broccoli are better foods for eye health. Eating the equivalent of a half-cup of cooked spinach four to seven times per week can help protect against age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of
blindness in the United States. It would take four pounds of carrots or 17 cups of iceberg lettuce to meet the same goal.
The American Eye-Q survey was created by the American Optometric Association in conjunction with Opinion Research Corporation. Using a random digit dialing methodology, ORC interviewed 1,000 Americans 18 years and older who embodied a nationally representative sample of U.S. households. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent for the general population. All data is weighted to represent the U.S. general populations with respect to age, gender and geographic region.
The American Optometric Association represents more than 34,000 doctors of optometry, optometry students and paraoptometric assistants and technicians. Optometrists provide more than two-thirds of all primary eye care in the United States and serve patients in nearly 6,500 communities across the country. In 3,500 of those communities they are the only eye doctors.
SOURCE: American Optometric Association and PR Newswire