By Michael Hutton

Ortho-k contact lenses  which not only correct short-sightedness but also stop prescriptions from worsening could be a key treatment for young children in the light of new guidelines from a leading US professional body recommending earlier and regular vision screening. All children ages 36 to 72 months should undergo an annual vision health screening according to recommendations which were published in the January issue of Optometry and Vision Science, the official journal of the American Academy of Optometry. This US perspective - which is likely to be shared across Europe - concludes that pre-school children should be screened for their vision health with specific tests and a defined process based on proven clinical standards.

Annual eye screening is defined as "best practice" and screening at least once after the age of three is considered the "accepted minimum standard." This reflects the compelling research evidence that vision problems can have a dramatic impact on a child's personal and academic development so children should see an ophthalmologist or optometrist promptly for diagnosis and referral. Being unable to function normally in the classroom, in the playground or on the sports field can have a seriously detrimental effect on children. Equally, research is showing that recourse solely to glasses in addressing vision defects should be challenged by parents given evidence that children can adapt to wearing contact lenses like ortho-k contact lenses  from a very early age.

Whilst glasses can provide a corrective therapy for vision defects, they can represent an unattractive challenge to young children by making them stand out from their young peers both in terms of appearance and in inhibiting their participation in sports and games. With contact lenses this is not an issue and for ortho-k contact lenses  for children for short-sight there is the added benefit of the lenses only being worn at night whilst the child is asleep. This means that the child has perfect natural vision all day long after the lenses are removed each morning and there is no risk of a lens being lost or dislodged during the day at school.

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