Eye problems in children are as common as allergies and asthma

Eye disorders are the most common long-term health problem experienced by children along with allergies and asthma, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Eye health among Australian children, found there were more than 411,000 children with long-term eye disorders in Australia.

'Most of these children have either long- or short-sightedness,' said Robert Long of the Institute's Population Health Unit.

About one in six 10-14 year olds wear glasses or contact lenses to correct sight.

'There are also about 420,000 GP visits each year that deal with children's eye problems, with most of these (62%) being conjunctivitis infections,' Mr Long said.

In 2006-07 about 600,000 eye-related Medicare services were provided to children. The vast majority of these were for optometry services such as eye exams and prescribing glasses.

Nationally, there were nearly 9,000 hospitalisations in 2006-07 for children with eye diseases and disorders.

'Overall, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children had a similar rate of eye hospitalisations to other Australian children,' Mr Long said.

'But within that figure, hospitalisations for infections and eye-related injuries were more common among Indigenous children', he said.

Other findings from the report include:

  • Rates of congenital eye malformations decreased between 1998 and 2003, although they were still the most common reason for eye-related hospitalisation among infants.
  • Cases of eye-related cancers and eye-related deaths remain very low for children.

Friday 7 November 2008

Further information: Mr Robert Long, AIHW tel. 02 6244 1138, mob. 0418 271 395.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1032.