Let's Talk About Myopia in Kids
Did you know that cases of Myopia are becoming more and more common in kids? The average age of a child developing myopia is also rapidly decreasing so, we thought we'd shine the spotlight on the condition and explain why this is.
What is Myopia?
Myopia (more commonly known as nearsightedness) is a common vision condition that causes an individual to have difficulty seeing objects that are far away.
Children often develop Myopia due to their eyes growing too quickly or continuing to grow past the age of 12. This causes the eyeball to be too long from front to back and results in a refractive error which prevents light from shining accurately into the retina (the part of the eye that allows the brain to process light into clear images).
What are the effects of Myopia?
A child with undiagnosed Myopia may experience headaches and fatigue when trying to look at distant objects. This can impact their ability to read off the blackboard in class and play sports with their friends.
While their vision can be improved through prescription glasses, if the eyes have not grown at the same rate, an imbalance can occur in each eye's optical strength. This is known as Anisometropia and because of the imbalance, the brain will rely on the image received by the stronger eye and therefore the weaker eye will not develop properly, leading to Amblyopia.
Kids with Myopia are also at a higher risk of developing other vision conditions in adulthood such as
- Retinal detachment – the lining of the retina is pulled away from the back of the eye, causing distorted vision or potential blindness
- Macular degeneration – due to the eye being elongated, the macula (the area at the centre of the retina) tears, causing blurred or reduced central vision.
- Glaucoma – the elongation of the eye results in increased pressure over time, which damages peripheral vision
- Cataracts –a cloudiness or opacity in the lens of the eye
Why are cases of Myopia increasing?
There are a number of factors that have contributed to the cases of Myopia increasing, with the most common being the growing popularity of kids playing with devices such as smartphones and tablets. While there are some great games on devices that your child can play to help develop their eye muscles, spending too much time looking at close-up objects can prevent the eye from developing correctly.
Additionally, spending too much time on a device often means a child is spending less time outdoors. Studies have shown that exposure to natural light is essential in regulating the growth of the eyes and as you learnt above, if the eye grows too quickly or keeps growing past the age of 12, Myopia can occur.
What can I do to prevent or delay Myopia in my child?
Studies recommend that kids spend a minimum of 90 minutes outdoors each day as this allows the eyes to be exposed to natural light, significantly reducing the development or progression of Myopia. As an added bonus, playing outdoors allows kids to move their bodies and get their daily dose of Vitamin D... just don't forget to protect their eyes by wearing sunglasses that are 100% guaranteed to block UVA and UVB rays.
It is also recommended that children spend no more than three hours (in addition to their time at school) doing activities that require them to look at close-up objects. Overexposure to blue light from tablets can damage the eyes and affect sleep so where possible, promote less screen time and more green time with your kids.
If you have a family history of Myopia, it is important that your child has regular eye tests with a professional. Wearing prescription glasses improves your child's vision, quality of life and delays the progression of Myopia. You can learn about when you should get your child's eye tested here.
Check out this blog to learn more about tips for healthy eyes!