In May 2016, The College of Optometrists sent out a briefing to its members reporting on the Northern Ireland Childhood Errors of Refraction (NICER) study. It’s the largest ever UK study of the changes in children’s vision.
The study has uncovered some key points about myopia, also known as short-sightedness. It found that almost one in five teenagers in the UK is short-sighted – twice the number reported in the 1960s. This is still far lower than the figures reported in Asian countries like South Korea, where 96.5 percent of 19 year old males are short-sighted.
There appears to be some sort of genetic link with myopia, since children with one short-sighted parent are three times more likely to be short-sighted by the age of 13. If both parents are affected, a child is up to seven times more likely to be short-sighted.
Short-sightedness in children
As we’ve been talking lots about recently, since the changes to children’s vision screening in Derby, a child’s vision stops developing at around eight years of age. Myopia is most likely to happen between six and 13 years of age so it’s never too early to bring your child along for an eye examination.
There’s loads of evidence to suggest that short-sightedness is on the rise, which is why The College of Optometrists has invested in this study. The findings of the study will determine advice for parents and young people, support the development of interventional treatments and to help shape policies for sight test intervals during childhood.
Advice for parents about short-sightedness
The report’s advice to optometrists is to examine children who are at risk once a year until the age of 13 and every two years after that.
Any parents who are short-sighted should expect that there is a high chance that their children will develop myopia too, so regular eye examinations in the early stages of primary school are essential.
Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that close-vision tasks like studying, reading or screen time can bring on myopia, but it does seem that an active, outdoor lifestyle can prevent its onset. And we all know that being active and outdoors doesn’t only help children’s eyesight.
If you’re a parent and you’re worried that your child might be short-sighted, feel free to give us a call and make an appointment for an eye examination. It doesn’t matter how early on in their development they are, we can test a child’s eyes using shapes and colours instead of letters and words.