herald

Friday 2 December 2016

AN unprecedented number of children are being hit with short sightedness, according to a leading Irish eye specialist.

AN unprecedented number of children are being hit with short sightedness, according to a leading Irish eye specialist.

The primary reason being children leading increasingly indoor lifestyles.

The explosion in the use of personal digital devices is also adding to the problem.

Globally, people are finally realising that there is a direct relationship between increasing levels and higher numbers of new cases of short sightedness or myopia in children due to being indoors too much.

Irish research into the problem is due to take place in the coming months by the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT).

Don Stack, a leading Irish eye specialist explained how use of tablets and phones is contributing to sight problems.

"Over the next decade I suspect we will understand a lot more about the effect that excessive use of near devices is having. Here in Ireland there hasn't been enough publicity about this to inform parents of the risks," he said.

"Irish optometrists are planning to work on a nationwide promotion encouraging parents to get their children outdoors.

"I know that parents already know this in regards to the high levels of obesity but here is yet another important reason to push the children out the door."

Mr Stack referred to international research in the filed.

Researchers in the UK have found that up to 50 per cent of the university student population is short sighted and there is a six fold increase amongst children aged from six up to 13.

Scientists have recommended that children need to spend up to three hours in outdoors light.

Researchers have found that the Chinese population has been gripped by an unprecedented rise in short-sightedness. Sixty years ago, 10 to 20 percent of the population was short-sighted. Today, up to 90 percent of teenagers and young adults are.

In Australia, researchers in the Australian National University in Canberra, have conducted a study to examine the relationship between exposure to sunlight during childhood and short sightedness in young adults.

The amount of childhood exposure to sunlight was estimated using a questionnaire and a special type of eye photography known as conjunctival ultraviolet autofluorescence which measures sunlight or UV exposure.

The results of the study showed the presence of short sightedness in young adults is conversely related to their exposure to sunlight during their childhood years.

"This is simply the latest confirmation of numerous studies that have shown that children's exposure to sunlight has a direct impact on their propensity towards myopia," Mr Stack added.

"The planned Irish promotion to encourage more of an outdoor lifestyle will be based around a, Summer Bucket List, of ideas for families to do together as well as instructions for games that children can play alone outdoors, or with friends.

"My wife Niamh and I have five children and it is a battle to get the children up and out. We know that we are not the only parents with this problem. This national campaign will aid children and teenagers in all aspects of their health."

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