By Jacqui Mayhew 

Contact lenses for children  based on the long-established optical science of orthokeratology - or ortho-k for short - may be a critically important weapon in the battle to stem the rapid rise in adolescent short-sightedness. Opticians in Britain are reporting an increase in the number of young children they see who are myopic - or short-sighted - and are putting it down to the amount of time youngsters now spend staring at iPads, laptops and smartphones, instead of playing outdoors as previous generations did. While the majority of diagnoses of myopia in children used to happen around puberty, increasing numbers are needing glasses at younger and younger ages.

Joanne Hancox, a consultant in paediatrics at London's Moorfields Eye Hospital commented: ‘We are seeing a general trend towards myopia and studies suggest that children from better socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to be affected.' This reflects the fact that higher income families typically spend more on screen-based gadgets. And with schools also increasing the amount of lesson activity which is done on computers, this is no longer just an issue relating to home life. This is where ortho-k contact lenses for children  may represent a major breakthrough in controlling the myopia epidemic since they not only correct the short-sightedness which is affecting increasing numbers of children, they also prevent the myopia from worsening.

Recent research has revealed that a fifth of children under the age of 13 have never had a sight test, although they are free on the NHS, so the problem of short-sightedness could be even more widespread than opticians and parents realise. And often this undiagnosed myopia may be the cause of academic under-performance as children fail to engage fully in lessons because they are unable to see clearly. With ortho-k contact lenses for children , the eyesight correction takes place overnight because the lenses are only worn while the child sleeps. After the lenses are removed each morning, the child enjoys perfect natural vision all day long until the lenses are reinserted at night.

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