Is your child squinting to look at the TV screen across the room, or having trouble reading off the board at school? If you answered yes to either of those questions, your child may be suffering from Myopia, or what is more commonly referred to as nearsightedness.
Luckily, your child is not alone, as myopia is one of the most common vision problems in childhood, with about 9% of children suffering from this condition.
What is Myopia?
Myopia is a condition of the eye that causes blurry vision when looking at distant objects or images. This is usually developed during childhood as a result of the eye growing irregularly, causing the eye to focus on an image at the front of the retina, instead of directly on the retina like it is supposed to.
Unfortunately, myopia does not only mean blurry vision, and can lead to higher risks of developing other vision-threatening eye diseases in the future.
The good news is, with regular eye exams, eye disease management and myopia control, your child’s myopia can be treated, helping them to regain clear vision, while decreasing their risk of developing further vision problems.
Common Symptoms of Myopia in Children
Unfortunately, children rarely report vision problems unless they’re severe. That’s why you need to be able to recognize the telltale signs that your child is suffering from vision issues. If you notice any of the following symptoms your child may be suffering from myopia:
- Squinting or closing one eye
- Moving closer to or sitting near objects they are trying to pay attention to, like the TV
- Excessive clumsiness or a noticeable increase in ineptitude
- Poor academic performance
- Complaints of headaches, pain in the eyes, or sensitivity to light
When to See a Doctor
It is best to see an eye doctor if you notice that any of the above symptoms are persistent, getting worse, or causing your child regular discomfort. Even if your child has no symptoms, they should receive an eye exam at least once a year.
Causes of Myopia
As your child grows, their eyes continue to grow too. If the eye’s axial length is growing improperly, it can cause myopia to develop and worsen over time. Your child’s myopia can be caused by several factors including:
Wearing Glasses Too Often
If your child has low myopia, it is best to only wear glasses when necessary. Wearing glasses too often can potentially lead to myopia worsening. Of course, if wearing glasses is unavoidable for your child, this is a factor that cannot be controlled.
Natural Eye Growth
As your child’s eyes grow and change shape, myopia can progress. The eye usually stops growing when your child reaches about 20 years old, which is when you can expect the progression of myopia to slow.
If either one of a child’s parents suffers from myopia, they have a higher chance of developing the condition themselves.
Too Much Screen Time
These days, most children spend a lot of time using digital devices. Too much time spent looking at a screen can place a lot of stress on a child’s focusing skills, which can lead to myopia progression.
Too Much Time Spent Doing Near-Vision Tasks
Near-vision tasks include any task that is done by focusing the eye on a close image or object. This can include reading, writing, drawing, or screen time. Spending too much time doing near-vision tasks can potentially progress myopia in a developing eye.
Not Enough Time Spent Outdoors
A good way to ensure that your child’s eyes have a chance to take a break from near-vision tasks is by allowing them lots of outdoor playtime. Not only does this give the eye muscles a chance to relax, but it varies the type of vision work your child is participating in.
Can Myopia be Prevented?
Although myopia cannot be fully cured or prevented, there are many ways that you can reduce the severity and slow the progression before it becomes too serious, such as:
- Paying attention to the above causes and risk factors. Knowing what causes myopia to develop and worsen is the first step in prevention. Limiting screen time, varying the type of vision tasks your child does, and making sure they take breaks from wearing their glasses (if applicable) can all slow the progression of myopia.
- Scheduling annual eye exams are a crucial part of ensuring the long-term eye health of your child. Not only will your eye doctor check for eye disease, but they can give you advice on prevention methods suited to your child’s specific needs.
How is Myopia Treated?
If your eye doctor diagnoses your child with myopia, there are several treatment options available to you:
- Contact lenses or specialty lenses
- Prescription eyeglasses
- Refractive surgery (only necessary in severe cases)
The best way to find a treatment that is right for both you and your child is to book an appointment and discuss a treatment plan with your doctor that is best suited to your child’s vision needs.