By Nigel Little
Contact lenses for children or spectacles would be prescribed much earlier and address vision defects more easily if children were subject to eye checks at a younger age than is currently the norm according to the results of a recent Australian study. Researchers from the University of Sydney led the study, giving eye exams to more than 1,000 children between the ages of two and a half years and six years. In total, between 6 and 7 percent of the children had visual impairment in at least one eye, and almost 3 percent had problems in both eyes. The majority of the children only had problems in one eye and the most common causes were astigmatism, farsightedness and amblyopia, or "lazy eye."
The findings highlight the importance of diagnosing and correcting vision problems in young children so that their eyes are in good shape to start school, the authors write in the journal Ophthalmology. "If there is a significant amount of visual impairment, they will get worse," said Dr. Rohit Varma, one of the study's authors from the University of Southern California. When children are young, minor vision problems are "a pretty easy fix," he said. However, for "many of them if it's not corrected, it may not be correctable later on," Varma told Reuters Health. Hence getting children's eyes checked at an early stage then enables glasses or contact lenses for children to be prescribed which can address any identified vision problems when they are still relatively minor.
The overall rate of vision problems seen in this study is similar to what has been shown in studies of young children in the U.S., the authors note. Varma, who led one of those U.S. studies, said that together such results show that for children with vision problems, getting vision correction aids quickly is essential as some of those problems may get much worse with time if left untreated. Boys and girls were equally likely to have vision problems as were children of different ethnicities. However, children that were "low birthweight" babies -- discerned from government health records -- had an increased risk of vision problems, compared to those born at a normal weight. However, glasses or contact lenses for children can ensure such problems are corrected quickly and allow children to participate fully at school and at home.
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