Ophthalmic surgeon concerned by rates of eye disease such as pterygium in children

At a time when kids spend perhaps too much time indoors, Kaden White has been bucking the trend.

A cricket enthusiast, the 11-year-old Sydney boy’s dad describes him as “an old-fashioned, outside kid”.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Aussie eye surgeon concerned by rates of eye disease in children.

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“Kaden has spent a lot of time in the sun — at the beach when he was young, around the pool and playing sport outside,” Jason White told 7NEWS.

But that love for the outdoors caught up with Kaden a couple of years ago when his eyes went bright red.

“Two Christmases ago, he was out swimming, on holidays, and his eyes went red,” White said.

“I thought maybe he’s got some sort of infection.

“He went to the doctor twice or three times and it didn’t go away.”

Kaden was referred to eye surgeon Shanel Sharma, who diagnosed him with pterygium.

Kaden White was diagnosed with pterygium. Credit: 7NEWS

Pterygium, also known as surfer’s eye, is when a layer of fleshy tissue grows on the eye.

It is caused by too much exposure to sunlight.

“It was very distressing. It did affect him mentally,” White said of his son’s condition.

Sharma, an ophthalmic eye surgeon with more than 20 years of experience, said her research has shown a third of children aged 9 to 11 in Sydney had “detectable UV damage to their eyes”.

For children aged 12 to 15, a third had pterygium or another eye disease, she said.

Dr Sharma recommends children wear sunglasses that protect their entire eye. Credit: 7NEWS

She warns pterygium in children can be an indicator of a higher risk of melanoma when they are older.

“It can affect your vision, it can block your vision and need to be removed if it impairs your vision,” she told 7NEWS.

“Children get the (eye) damage but adulthood is when you get the disease.”

She has recommended children should wear polarised, UV 400 lenses with a wrap-around frame design to protect all parts of the eye.

Sharma has been so concerned about children’s eye health, she has started a sunglasses business making products designed to prevent eye diseases in kids.

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