By Steve Roberts 

Contact lenses for children  which use the long-established optical science of orthokeratology - or ortho-k for short - could become an increasingly important solution to the rapid increase in adolescent short-sightedness, known as myopia. According to Professor Jannie Ferreira, former head of the University of Johannesburg's Optometry Department, children as young as three are developing eyesight problems and struggling to read because they spend too much time on iPads watching videos and playing games. Late diagnosis given the tendency for young children not to visit an optician before they are at least 8-9 years old means that myopia can already be quite significant.

Myopia is increasing worldwide due to the time children spent in front of computers, phones or tablets, Ferreira said. "Short-sightedness is at epidemic proportions, according to the World Health Organisation," he said. Many children were developing myopia because their eyes did not relax enough, something that happens when they look at objects at least 6m away, Ferreira said. When children are diagnosed as being myopic, the main corrective approach is to fit spectacles but whilst this can provide an immediate benefit in giving the child full visual acuity, it will not prevent the myopia from continuing to worsen. This is where ortho-k contact lenses for children  can be especially helpful.

Educational psychologist Anel Annandale said too much time in front of a screen could affect a child's visual perception. "Children spend too much time looking at a two-dimensional image on a screen and their brains don't learn to make sense of a three-dimensional world," she said. Ferreira said often children were not ready for school because their visual perception had not developed adequately. Children then struggled to read or pay attention and were labelled as having a learning problem. With ortho-k contact lenses for children , not only is the child's myopia corrected but it will also be prevented from getting worse since the lenses prevent the eye elongating as shown by various research  studies.

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