Children's eyesight

Children's eyesight is getting worse and that's a fact. The latest evidence shows that short-sightedness has increased from twenty to forty percent of the population in the last twenty-five years. This rate of increase, suggests that lifestyle factors are at play because genetic changes take longer and it is children's eyesight which is most at risk.

Short-sightedness in children typically develops during the early school years and progresses more rapidly during pre-teens while the eye is forming. There are very few reported cases of short-sightedness in children before the age of five and hence it is often referred to as school myopia. The younger a child is when short-sightedness is first detected, the higher the eventual prescription as an adult will be. In children short-sightedness increases, on average, half a dioptre every year. A child of six could, therefore, have a prescription of -6.00D or more by the age of eighteen.

Lifestyle factors are causing children's eyesight to get worse. Numerous studies have now linked increased time spent indoors focusing on near objects such as computers, TVs, mobile phones and greatly reduced outdoor activity time, as the key factors contributing to the rapid deterioration in children's eyesight. Natural daylight and looking into the middle distance are both needed for eyesight to develop correctly whilst young.

Apart from the obvious disadvantages of wearing glasses, high myopia in children doubles the risk of serious eye problems in later life such as cataracts, glaucoma and retinal detachment. Unfortunately, a child will not necessarily know themselves that they have a problem with their eyesight. They have no comparison, so how they see to them is quite normal. Headaches, sitting too close to the TV, squinting to see and the inability to see 3D films could all be signs of eyesight problems.

It is, therefore, good practice to take your child for an eyesight test before starting school aged three to four and then routinely every two years. If you or your partner are short-sighted, it is especially important to take your children for eyesight tests. If both of you have myopia or where there is a history of high myopia in the family, it is recommended this is done every six months. If myopia is detected then you should consider immediately fitting your child with overnight contact lenses to prevent it getting worse. The sooner a myopia control program starts, the better the final results.

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