Myopia, also known as ‘shortsightedness’, is a common condition in which close objects appear clear, while objects in the distance appear blurry. Although the risk of myopia in children is greatly increased when one or both parents have the condition, it also affects children whose parents are not myopic. Despite its strong genetic component, environmental factors can also play a role in the development of myopia. Recent studies suggest that increased screen time, as well as excessive reading and writing, can contribute to the development of myopia. It is predicted that more than half of the world’s population will have myopia, and 10% of the population will suffer from high myopia in the future.
Unfortunately, there is no outright cure for myopia, but there are things you and your optometrist can do to slow the progression of myopia in children.
What is myopia and how does it impact children?
Myopia occurs when the shape of the eye is longer than it should be. When this happens, light will focus incorrectly on the retina and cause blurry vision when looking at objects that are in the distance. The onset of myopia usually begins during childhood with children often showing early signs between eight and twelve years of age.
Undiagnosed myopia can have huge impacts on social and educational development which can lead to reduced confidence and impacting quality of life. Children with myopia can find school quite challenging as the condition can limit their ability to read and write, especially if they’re reading off a whiteboard. Participating in certain sports and physical activities can also be difficult, as myopia can make it difficult to see objects in a game.
If myopia is not controlled, it can lead to further difficulties over time. Driving can become particularly challenging as myopia can make it hard to clearly see street signs and other vehicles in the distance.
Once the child enters adulthood, they will have an increased risk of eye diseases such as retinal detachment and glaucoma.
Why is myopia control important?
Myopia is a progressive condition that increases the risk of severe visual impairment and other eye related complications if left untreated. Untreated myopia can progress to ‘high myopia’, which can cause severe visual impairment, eye disease, or blindness.
Myopia control is key to preserving vision, slowing the progression of myopia, and reducing the risk of complications.
While there is no myopia treatment to totally cure the condition, there are treatments which can help lessen the severity of the condition, and protect eye health.
How do we control myopia?
There are several methods that can be used as part of a myopia control strategy. Your optometrist will evaluate the severity of your child’s condition and decide which myopia control method is most suitable.
Prescription glasses or contact lenses
Following an eye test, your optometrist can provide your child with prescription glasses or contact lenses to correct their myopia and help them see better. In addition, myopia control soft contact lenses and myopia control spectacle lenses have been found to slow myopic progression in children..Eye drops
There are medicated eye drops your optometrist can prescribe that will help slow the growth of the eye and reduce the progression of myopia.
Orthokeratology is a non-surgical myopia treatment that uses special contact lenses to reshape the cornea while sleeping. This method can help temporarily correct myopia and slow down its progression.
While myopia is largely considered to be a hereditary condition, much of the population is still at risk. There are multiple methods parents can use to help reduce the severity and likelihood their child develops myopia. Some of these methods include:
Your child should have their eyes examined by an optometrist regularly Regular eye tests will help detect the onset of myopia and monitor any changes.
Encourage time outdoors
Studies have shown that children who spend more time outdoors have a lower risk of developing myopia. Spending time outdoors means your child will be exposed to more natural light and will be limiting their exposure to screens and artificial light.
Give your child reading breaks
While reading and writing is important for your child’s development, it is important that they take frequent breaks. During these breaks, they should undertake activities that involve looking at objects in the distance. This method should also be used if your child has been looking at screens.
Has your child had an eye test in the last year? Keeping up with regular eye examinations can help monitor for eye conditions such as myopia. Book an appointment with Bayside Eyecare by filling out our online contact form or giving us a call on (03) 9909 5329.