Myopia affects 30% of the population across the world. Researchers expect this to increase to a shocking 52% by the year 2050. Children are particularly at risk as 90% of myopic cases begin during early childhood. Medical professionals agree that this is a serious health threat. Unfortunately, the general public remains largely unaware of the severity of the situation. Now is the perfect time for you to get the conversation about myopia started!
What is myopia?
Myopia or more commonly known as near-sightedness is a common vision condition that is easily solved with glasses or contact lenses. It occurs when the length of the eyeball becomes too long and the light can no longer focus on the retina (the light sensitive tissue of the eye), rather its focused in from of it. This causes blurred vision in the distance but clear vision when focusing on something close.
Myopia is not a disease. Your eye is healthy it’s just a miss matched system. This happens when the power of the eye (the part that focuses the light) doesn’t match the foveal length of the eye; the same thing happens when a picture is out of focus.
What causes myopia?
Genetics do play a role but that alone does not account for the high rise in cases we have been seeing. Environmental factors also affect myoptic development. For example, too much close-up work, such as reading or screen-time. The decreased time children spend in sunlight is also believed to be a major factor.
What are the risks of myopia?
The majority of people diagnosed with mild to moderate myopia will not experience any eye problems from being nearsighted. Those with high myopia have a higher chance of retinal detachment, cataracts, myopic degeneration, and glaucoma. All of these can cause vision loss. Those with high myopic cases should have regular comprehensive eye exams and should talk with their optometrist about warning signs.
In addition to the physical risks, children with undiagnosed myopic cases may experience problems at school. Naturally, a child who struggles to see the board will have a hard time staying focused on the lesson. They may also have lower reading comprehension due to their poor vision. If left untreated, these factors can lead to children falling behind their peers in school.
What can I do to protect my child?
Myopia is often a hereditary trait, so it can not be completely prevented. However, we can slow its progression. Myopia progresses faster in young children. Early diagnoses and intervention are key. That is why we at Eye Care Associates recommend regular eye exams for children.
You can decrease the chances of your child developing myopia. Limit the amount of time they spend doing near vision activities. When they are doing these activities, encourage them to practice the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away.
Another important way to lessen the chance of developing myopia is spending time outside in the sun! While we don’t fully understand why this is, the research is clear. Children who spend 2 or more hours a day outside are less likely to develop myopia. While we are still trying to understand why that is, the research is clear. One of the best ways to protect your child’s vision is to encourage them to go outside and play!