By Malcolm Hughes

Contact lenses for children  which can stop short-sightedness - otherwise known as myopia - from getting worse and which are only worn overnight when sleeping are now recognised as a critically important alternative to glasses and traditional daytime contact lenses. Over 40 per cent of the UK population suffers from myopia and experts are warning that this already high level of short-sightedness will continue to grow. British laser eye surgeon Dr David Allamby said: "There are several studies showing that lack of daylight might be the principal reason why children become more short-sighted, rather than prolonged reading. What wasn't factored into our decades of research was that reading and studying are done indoors, away from daylight."

In China, pupils are already being taught in huge translucent boxes to try and halt their vision decline after a study found that 80 per cent of children in Beijing were short-sighted. Researchers believe that youngsters are spending so long inside for lessons that it is damaging their eyesight. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the earlier a child develops myopia, the worse his or her eyesight will become by the time they reach adulthood since the condition will typically deteriorate by around 0.5 diopters every year. Hence overnight contact lenses for children  based on the long-established science of orthokeratology are becoming an increasingly popular treatment because research  has shown they stop short-sightedness getting worse.

High myopia can be a potentially blinding condition in later life due to its association with retinal detachment and other serious eye health issues which emphasises the importance of ensuring it is treated effectively once it is diagnosed. Given that children as young as 6 years are able to wear contact lenses and the fact that the ortho-k contact lenses for children  are only worn overnight, there is a rapidly growing demand from parents for opticians to offer this specialised treatment. However, in the UK the major High Street chains do not offer orthokeratology which remains a treatment provided by independent optometrists and specialist contact lens fitters.

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