Myopia Control: Why assess your child’s risk?

Myopia has become a recurring problem with children all over the globe. For example, its occurrence doubled in Australian 12 year olds in the years 2005 and 2011.

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Dr Dylan Joseph

Cataract and Refractive Surgeon

MBChB(Pret), Dip Ophth(SA), FC Ophth(SA),
MMed Ophth UFS (cum laude)

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Why assess your child’s risk?

Myopia has become a recurring problem with children all over the globe. For example, its occurrence doubled in Australian 12 year olds in the years 2005 and 2011.

In fact, myopia is occurring more frequently in young children. The young onset can cause more damage more quickly and open your child up to more eye diseases like:

Retinal Detachment

A film lining on the back of the eye may pull back from the base and cause distorted vision or blindness depending on its location.

Myopic Macular degeneration

This can cause the disruption of vision clarity, resulting in a smudged or murky effect in the middle of your vision field.

Glaucoma

This eye condition damages the optic nerve. This can be caused by increased pressure in your eye and can eventually lead to blindness.

Cataract

This abnormality can develop slowly over an extended period of time and causes cloudy vision, similar to trying to see through frosted glass.

Due to continuous myopia progression or worsening, spectacles and/or contact lenses need to be replaced more regularly. Higher myopia reduces quality of life and is more costly to correct with glasses and contact lenses.

What can lead to myopia?

Close work has been linked to development of myopia, such as reading, playing computer games, drawing or using smartphones and tablets.

With electronic handheld devices, toddlers are able to use them more easily – which in turn results in increased exposure to close work at a younger age.

Myopia can be a hereditary disorder that is affected by genetics and family eye health history. It is important to factor these into your children’s risk levels.

A link between Asian ethnicity and faster progression of myopia has been reported, with a higher worldwide prevalence in this group of people.

A child’s risk of developing myopia can be tripled if one biological parent is shortsighted – and even six times more likely if both parents are short-sighted.

There are studies that indicate children of parents who finished high school or university are more susceptible to myopia.

Myopia is a problem that can be caused by incorrect glasses – under or over-corrected vision. This has been shown to promote onset and acceleration of myopia.

How can you prevent myopia from developing?

By monitoring your child’s vision you can detect any signs of disrupted vision and intervene with treatment if necessary.

Children’s close work, like reading, homework and screen time should be limited to three hours a day (over and above time spent at school).

If your child is using a computer, remind them to take breaks every 20 minutes to exercise and ensure the computer is set up to reduce eye strain.

Reduce the amount of time your child spends on smartphones. Excessive screen time is linked to Myopia, dry eyes and increased risk of eye damage and diseases in the future.

The blue light of screens like on tablets and smartphones can damage eye health and negatively influence sleeping patterns. It is recommended to end your child’s screen time a few hours (2-3) before bedtime.

Spending at least an hour and a half outside everyday can help decrease your child’s risk of developing myopia.

Some evidence indicates that sunlight can help slow the onset and development of myopia, however always remember to protect your child’s eyes with a hat and sunglasses

What if your child already has myopic symptoms?

Contact lenses

Orthokeratology and specialty contact lens designs offer advanced vision correction options to slow progression of myopia.

Optometric glasses

Studies have indicated that specialised glasses lenses are effective at slowing the development of myopia. However they are not as effective as contact lenses, and only for specific problems with eye muscle teaming problems.

Atropine eye drops

Atropine eye drops can be effective in slowing the development of myopia and the use of this treatment is becoming more popular.

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