Short-sightedness (or myopia) in children has more than doubled over the last 50 years. This is one of the key findings of a new study, conducted by researchers at Ulster University.
According to this latest research, nearly one in five teenagers in the UK is now short-sighted. And children with one parent who has myopia are at least three times more likely to be short-sighted than those without a myopic parent. This increases to over seven times more likely when both parents are myopic. The study has also shown that myopia is most likely to occur between the ages of six and 13 years.
While clearly genetics are very important in the development of myopia, other influences are less clear. Although it has long been suspected that more time spent on computers and other near tasks can cause myopia, current evidence suggests such a link is not strong. Other studies have shown that increased time spent outdoors is helpful in preventing or slowing down the progression of myopia. The reasons for this are not entirely clear, but it is thought to relate to the effects of vitamin D production on the growth of young eyes.
Commenting on this latest research, the College of Optometrists has strongly recommended that parents take their children for regular sight tests. This is particularly important if one or both parents are themselves short-sighted. And remember, children’s eye tests are free under the National Health Service. It’s never too early to have your children’s eyes tested, as optometrists have special techniques available for testing children who can’t yet read.