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Sight for sore eyes

Eye-testing of pre-school children in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area will start within weeks.

The health authority is pushing ahead with a scheme that the Scottish Executive wants to see replicated across the country by the end of 2007.

Although eye tests for pre-school children have been available for a number of years in various parts of Scotland, many children have had to wait until they reached an age where problems were less easily rectified.

Dr Emilia Crighton, a public health consultant with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: "The message is that screening is important in order to detect visual difficulties that can't be easily detected in other ways. This is useful at a young age because there is still time to correct any difficulties with treatment."

Dr Crighton added that, although many of the problems found might not have an impact on children's lives, they could cause difficulties with spatial awareness and ultimately limit the ability to do some jobs. She said universal testing in the area should start this month or in November.

The checks, ideally performed at the age of four, will take place in the child's nursery where possible. The testing of children's sight before they enter school is designed to detect poor vision and other abnormalities, such as squints. Amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (squint) affect 3 to 6 per cent of children. Although obvious squints are easily detected, other problems often go unnoticed and amblyopia develops.

A spokeswoman for NHS Grampian said eye tests for children aged three and a half had been available in Aberdeen, Stonehaven and Westhill since 1990, and pre-school testing should be introduced throughout the region sometime next year. A spokeswoman for NHS Lothian said eye tests of pre-school children were being carried out in West Lothian and would be introduced across the region. Eye-testing was already carried out in primary schools in the region.

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