Human sight degrades after mid-teens

10 March, 2011

As sight starts to degrade once we reach our mid-teens, it is vital that we maintain habits to keep good eyesight throughout our lives, vision experts say.

Maintaining healthy vision is the main theme for the "Young Visionaries" from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Vision Science, the ‘Vision Centre’. As part of Children’s Vision Day on March 10, the group of early-career researchers will be joining the national effort to promote good eyesight among Australian school children.

"According to the Optometrists Association Australia, one in ten Australian children suffers from a long-term eye disorder," says Shaun New, an organiser of Vision Day. "Once recognised, most eye problems are easy to correct. Others have no obvious symptoms and early detection is the key.

"This is why our overall theme this year is to promote healthy vision – we want children to understand the importance of their sight and the need to look after their eyes."

Teaming up with local optometrists, the Young Visionaries will be giving talks and exhibitions on the eye structure, optical illusions and eye disorders to more than a hundred students.

Professor Ted Maddess, the director of The Vision Centre, says that Vision Day is a good opportunity for the scientists to share the fruits of the latest scientific research with the children who will use it to look after their sight in later life.

"We often take vision for granted because when we first open our eyes it just seems to work effortlessly," he says. "In fact the visual nervous system continues to develop though childhood and after the age of 15 it slowly begins to degrade. So it is important as children and parents to manage the growth and decline of vision throughout life.

"Our suggestions to help maintain good eyesight include getting an hour or two of daylight a day, as our research indicates that it prevents myopia. This is important because people with severe short-sightedness are at risk of sight-threatening damage to the retina.

"We can encourage children to join in more outdoor activities during lunch and recess, rather than staying indoors."

Prof. Maddess says that The Vision Centre is developing novel and non-invasive methods to test the visual function of children and impaired persons. The researchers are also exploring new techniques for ultraviolet laser surgery to help all ages.

"Vision loss in old age may be inevitable, so we would like to share the knowledge on how to best minimise the impact," New says. "We only have one pair of eyes for life so it is important that we look after them."

Source: The Vision Centre