Back to School 2018

Vision problems affect school performance; Moorfields experts advise a balance of screen and outdoor time, and regular eye checks 

2 September 2018 (Dubai – United Arab Emirates): Around one quarter of school age children have some form of vision problem, with more children and young people wearing glasses and contact lenses. Research shows that children who have a vision problem literally lose focus on their work and this can affect their performance and development, as a result. As families across the region prepare for another school year, this is the perfect time to consider their children’s vision – a vital part of their school performance.

This ‘Back to School’, experts at Moorfields Dubai are highlighting the importance of healthy vision, whatever stage of education a child has reached. From KG to Grade 12, this is the time of year to make sure children are ready for their learning and studies – this is especially important for younger children (8 years and under) because there is a
unique opportunity to correct any vision defects before this age.

According to Dr. Darakhshanda Khurram, Consultant Paediatric Ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai, around one quarter of school-age children have some form of vision problem, such as short sightedness, astigmatism, cataracts, colour blindness, lazy eye or genetic diseases. Many of these problems begin well before school age and can go undetected, and so screening at an early age is an important part of the prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment process.

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. Kids 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 from Canada shows that children who spend more time outdoors may reduce their risk of developing nearsightedness. 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. The Canadian study shows that for each additional hour of outdoor time per week, the risk of a child developing myopia 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 in time. 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 vision screening is very important and children’s vision should ideally be tested by the age of three or four. Nursery schools should also check children’s eyesight, and notify parents if they suspect anything.

Dr. Darakhshanda Khurram, Consultant Paediatric Ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai, comments: “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. 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. Parents should aim to manage kids’ screen time, get them outdoors when appropriate, and ensure they have regular eye tests.”

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