Short-sighted vision an 'epidemic' for Kiwi kids

The number of New Zealand children being treated for short-sighted vision are now being described as at "epidemic" levels.

It follows new research that shows the eye condition, also known as myopia, is set to dramatically increase in the coming decades.

Eight-year-old Bella Raynes knows she can't forget her pink glasses when she heads off for school.

"It's really important and I have to wear them at school every day," she says.

That's because Bella has myopia. The condition sees the sufferer's eyeball stretch over time, which puts pressure on the retina. If untreated, it can even lead to blindness.

Bella was diagnosed at just four, and mum Sheena says finding out has really helped her daughter.

"It has really made a difference to what she can see on the board, and things like that, so without them she can't see a whole lot."

Bella isn't alone though. Right now thousands of Kiwi kids are also living with myopia. The Association of Optometrists says the problem is getting much worse.

Wellington optometrist Andrew Sangster says he's often treating the condition among kids, and he says screen time is part of the problem.

"Children are spending more time on devices and on their computers. These days it's more of a digital environment in the classroom."

It comes as research published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology in recent weeks showed 10 million people worldwide suffered from myopia in 2010. But by 2050, that number is expected to rise five-fold, to 55 million.

But there is a solution, and that's early diagnosis. Mr Sangster says it pays to check, because your kids might not even know something's wrong.

"The children may not be aware that the way they see the world... is not the way they could ideally see the world," he says.

For Bella and her mum Sheena, that's a message they want every family to take seriously.