Eye problems the most common disorder for Australian children

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) roughly one in every six Australian children wears glasses - and eye disorders are the most common long-term health problem for Australia's youth.

An AIHW report released this week says along with allergies and asthma, eye disorders are the most common long-term health problem experienced by children and more than 411,000 children are affected by long-term eye disorders in Australia.

Robert Long from the Institute's Population Health Unit says most of these children have either long- or short-sightedness and about one in six 10-14 year olds wear glasses or contact lenses to correct sight.

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

In 2006-07 about 600,000 eye-related Medicare services were provided to children, mostly for optometry services such as eye exams and prescribing glasses, and nationally there were almost 9,000 hospitalisations in 2006-07 for children with eye diseases and disorders.

Mr Long says Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children had a similar rate of eye hospitalisations as other Australian children, but hospitalisations for infections and eye-related injuries were more common among Indigenous children.

The report also found that though the rates of congenital eye malformations decreased between 1998 and 2003, they remained the most common reason for eye-related hospitalisation among infants and cases of eye-related cancers and eye-related deaths remain very low for children.

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