Child sight loss on the rise, says charity

The number of children being registered blind or partially sighted is on the rise according to campaigners.

Research by Blind Children UK said the rise in children registering their sight loss is up by nine per cent since 2006. This number jumped to 12 per cent for those aged five and under.

In addition, the number of babies being born with sight difficulties as a result of being premature has risen by 22 per cent over the past decade to more than 1,800. The earlier children are born the greater the risk of vision impairment, with one in 20 severely premature babies   now likely to be born blind.

However, delays in diagnosis are leading to development being unnecessarily impaired.

The research collated data from a number of sources including NHS England, the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Government and Blind Children UK, formerly known as the National Blind Children's Society, also surveyed parents.

A quarter of the parents polled said they had to wait longer than a year to have their child diagnosed with vision impairment.

Almost half (43%) of these felt that this delay had a ‘negative’ or ‘strongly negative’ effect on their child’s development as it meant that they did not get the support needed from their local authority or school.   

“Every day a child with sight loss goes without support, it dramatically affects their development,” said Richard Leaman, CEO Blind Children UK. “As much as 80 per cent of a sighted child’s learning takes place using vision. Without this, it’s impossible for a young boy or girl to develop fully and make sense of the world around them."

To help parents spot the signs of early sight loss the charity has released useful information on its website at blindchildrenuk.org

Research stats 

  • A nine per cent rise in the number of children registered blind or partially sighted.
  • Biggest rise is amongst those under the age of five - a 12 per cent rise since 2006.
  • Around 43 per cent of parents report that delays in diagnosis affected their child’s development.
  •  One in 20 severely premature babies now likely to be born blind.
  •  Around four children lose their sight each day in the UK.

Spot the signs of early sight loss

  • Are your baby’s eyes red, inflamed or itchy?
  • Are their eyes excessively watery?
  • Does your baby rub their eyes excessively?
  • Do your baby’s eyes look cloudy?
  • Any concerns about a child should be mentioned to a health visitor or GP.

Source: Blind Children UK

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