Real Life

Are annual eye exams necessary for children?

Do children really need to be tested by an optometrist every year?
Are annual eye exams necessary for children?

We have two children, aged 12 and nine, who wear glasses part of the time because of short-sightedness. Every year the optometrist sends us a letter suggesting they have new eye tests to make sure their vision hasn’t changed. The cost of these tests is $60 each – a lot of money for us. The question is, are eye tests necessary for children every year? They are not complaining of any sight difficulties.

I share your concerns. Are these firms simply exploiting your desire to do everything possible for your children? I have contacted the Optometrists & Dispensing Opticians Board. They say there is no prescribed period for re-testing children, but the board’s view is that they be re-tested every two or three years. The only reason they’d recommend more frequent tests is when there is a known eye issue, such as a family history of myopia. But they say short- or long-sightedness in children does not fall into that category.

So unless you have any specific concerns, decline your optometrist’s kind invitation and ask them to get back to you in another year or two. It’s a bit like these letters that now turn up from your dentist’s hygienist saying it’s time to come in for an inspection and tooth polish. Sure, if you’ve got all the money in the world, that’s an option, but it’s not necessary. And don’t start me on the pressure hard-up parents feel having to provide all their kids with expensive braces so they can have perfectly straight teeth. There are good reasons for getting braces but parents shouldn’t feel bad saying no if they don’t think it’s necessary.

I reckon commercial operations that work in the health industry, such as optometrists and dentists, have to be careful to show restraint in their level of “entrepreneurship”. Quite rightly, the public treat them with a great deal of trust.

Do you have a consumer question for Kevin? Email [email protected], or post to Weekly Consumer, PO Box 90119, Victoria St West, Auckland 1142.

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