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Back to school: Are vision problems affecting your child’s school performance?

One in four school age children have a vision problem

6 September 2018

Around one in four school age children have some form of vision problem, with more children and young people wearing glasses. Research shows that children who have a vision problem lose focus on their work and this can affect their performance and development. As families across the country prepare for another school year, this is the perfect time to consider their children’s vision – a vital part of their school performance.

Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai has been highlighting the importance of healthy vision and the importance of regular eye tests. It is especially important for children under the age of eight so that any vision defects can be corrected before their eyes fully develop.

According to Dr. Darakhshanda Khurram, consultant paediatric ophthalmologist at Moorfields Dubai, around one quarter of school-age children have some form of vision problem, such as short sightedness, lazy eye, colour blindness, astigmatism, cataracts or genetic diseases. Many of these problems begin well before school age and can go undetected, so regular eye tests at an early age are important.

“Eye tests for children are essential – they are quick, simple and painless and can help prevent serious vision related problems in later childhood or in adulthood,” said Dr Khurram.

“They can also pick up those problems that may inhibit the child’s development at school and performance in the classroom; it is surprising how many ‘disruptive children’ at school turn out to have a simple vision problem that is distracting them in the classroom.”

Dr. Khurram recommends three steps for healthy school-ready vision:

1. Manage screen time for kids

Tablets and smartphones can help with hand-eye coordination and for the stimulation of neurons in the brain. However, they also have bright screens and these can create side effects such as dryness of the eyes, eyestrain, blurry vision, focusing issues, and headaches. Children can stare at screens intensively and don’t blink as much while using devices and so tears don’t spread across the eyes leading to dryness. Parents should try to limit the screen time for kids to no more than 20 minutes at a time to protect the eyes and vision of their children.

2. Outdoor time is great vision

Recent research shows that children who spend more time outdoors may reduce their risk of developing near-sightedness (myopia). Children seem to be becoming near-sighted at younger ages, around 6-7 years, rather than 12-13 as their eyes are constantly focusing on objects that are very close to them. One study shows that for each additional hour of outdoor time per week, the risk of a child developing near-sightedness drops around 14 percent – this may be due to the brighter light outdoors and the fact that there is more to look at outdoors, so the eyes are working harder.

3. Early and regular eye tests for children

Most causes of poor vision are easily correctable if they are picked up and treated early. A child’s eyesight does not fully develop until the age of nine and if a condition like amblyopia (cross eyes or squint) or lazy eye (which can lead to permanent vision loss) is diagnosed early enough, the better the chances of successful treatment and complete recovery. Early eye tests are very important and children’s vision should ideally be tested by the age of three or four.

It is also recommended that children have regular eye tests at least once every two years. These can be done at a high street opticians and are free for all children under 16 years old (and those under 19 years old in full-time education).

Find out if you’re entitled to a free NHS sight test.

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