Childhood blindness on the increase in Britain

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Campaigners have stated that increased numbers of children in Britain are being registered as partially sighted or blind.

Blind Children UK has attributed the increase to the survival of more premature babies, where one in 20 is likely to be born blind. The organisation has provided an estimate that the number of babies who are born with sight difficulties due to being premature has increased by 22% over the past 10 years to more than 1800 each year.

It blames diagnosis delays for leaving children impaired unnecessarily.

The organisation is aiming to increase awareness of the warning signs parents should be looking for.

Signs such as cloudy or red eyes and bad reactions to bright light should prompt parent to seek medical assistance for their children.

To do an effective evaluation of the overall extent of sight problems, the charity used data from NHS England, the Scottish government, the Welsh Assembly, Northern Ireland Health, the Office for National Statistics and Social Care Trusts.

It discovered that since 2006, the number of children who were registered as partially sighted or blind increased by 9%. The largest increase has been in those under the age of five.

The earlier a child is born, the greater its risk of visual impairment.

The survey which included 130 parents of children suffering with sight problems found that 25% stated they had to wait in excess of one year to obtain an effective diagnosis for their child.

Around 50% of those who had been questioned stated that the delay in diagnosis had a negative impact.

The Chief Executive of Blind Children UK, Richard Leaman, said that every day a child who has lost his or her sight goes without support, the more it affects their overall development. He said that 80% of a sighted child’s learning is accomplished by using vision. Without sight, it is impossible for a child to develop fully and understand what is happening around them.

He added that the organisation offers assistance to children and their families to deal with the challenges of sight loss. This enables them to enjoy their childhood and have the opportunity to realise their potential when they become adults.

Image Credit: Sharada Prasad CS

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