News

It's time to get serious about eye-injury in children



12 March 2009

The University of Sydney, in conjunction with the Orthoptic Association of Australia and The Children's Hospital at Westmead, is calling all parents to take heed of Orthoptics Awareness Week's message — 'Eye Play Safe' — which aims to promote the awareness and prevention of eye injuries in children.

Eye injuries in Australia have dramatically increased in the last ten years, and with most eye injuries occurring at home, children are unfortunately a common victim.

'Eye injury can happen in a matter of seconds, but it can potentially affect a child's vision for the rest of their life. The message we are trying to get out there is that eye injury is preventable and that parents need to consciously supervise their children in and around the home,' said Associate Professor Elaine Cornell, of the Discipline of Orthoptics at the University of Sydney.

Orthoptics Awareness Week poster
Orthoptics Awareness Week poster

The theme for the awareness week is the result of recent research from The Children's Hospital at Westmead that found eye injuries in children are mostly caused by sharp objects and interestingly, boys aged 3 to 9 are most at-risk. Most injuries were found to occur at home on the weekends between 4 - 6pm, while school and childcare centres were declared relatively safe due to limited access to objects that cause harm and higher supervision levels.

As a registered Orthoptist, Associate Professor Cornell takes the issue of children's eye health very seriously. Orthoptists diagnose and treat patients of all ages with disorders of eye movements and associated vision problems; however due to the nature of many binocular disorders it is critically important that they are detected and treated in the young. 'The importance of early detection and intervention has been emphasised by findings from the large population-based Sydney Myopia Study and the Sydney Pediatric Eye Disease Studies,' commented Associate Professor Kathryn Rose who worked on the recent studies with University of Sydney postgraduate students.

Only two universities in Australia — the University of Sydney and La Trobe in Melbourne — offer professional accreditation courses in Orthoptics, and while this is somewhat of a 'niche' allied health profession there are currently areas of shortages nation-wide.

'We are often contacted by ophthalmology departments and vision clinics from Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth or Hobart who are interested in our graduates,' said Neryla Jolly, Senior Lecturer and Convener of the postgraduate orthoptics program at Sydney. 'As such it's not surprising that our new graduate entry masters course has received interest from students across the country and internationally due to the unique model of attaining a professional orthoptist qualification in two years.'

For more information on Orthoptics Awareness Week visit www.orthoptics.org.au