When your child has myopia, they can see things up close, but it gets a bit fuzzy when it comes to objects in the distance. This nearsightedness typically starts early in life and might worsen as they grow through childhood and adolescence.
Parents, educators, and caregivers must understand how to address myopia in kids and take proactive steps to protect their young eyes. This article delves into the causes of myopia in children, its consequences, and practical strategies for prevention and management.
Myopia occurs when a child’s eyeball is elongated from front to back or when the cornea, the clear front surface of the eye, is excessively curved. When light enters the eye, it doesn’t reach the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, resulting in blurry, distant vision while close objects appear clear.
Myopia often appears during childhood, usually between 6 and 12. Kids might start having trouble seeing distant objects clearly and squint to compensate. This nearsightedness tends to progress as they grow, and it’s why many children end up with their first pair of glasses.
Spotting Myopia in Its Early Stages
The key to stopping its progression is catching myopia early on. This involves making sure that children undergo eye exams during their early years.
Regular eye exams are a must for all children, even if they don’t appear to have any vision issues. Sometimes, nearsighted children don’t display apparent symptoms or even recognize their nearsightedness. For children with parents or siblings who have myopia, routine eye exams are particularly vital.
If your child doesn’t pass a vision screening at your pediatrician’s office or school, they might have myopia. To confirm the diagnosis, you must schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist or an optometrist.
Here’s a brief rundown of what each of these professionals does:
These experts hold medical degrees (MD or DO). They’re the complete package, conducting comprehensive eye exams, prescribing glasses and contact lenses, diagnosing and treating various eye conditions, and even performing eye surgery when necessary.
These professionals have degrees in optometry (OD). They excel at giving eye exams prescribing glasses, and contact lenses. Also, they can screen for and manage specific vision issues.
Their role involves fitting eyeglasses and contact lenses based on prescriptions from ophthalmologists and optometrists. Additionally, they assist customers in making decisions about the most suitable eyeglass frames or contact lenses to purchase.
The Consequences of Childhood Myopia
Myopia may seem minor, especially when it can be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. However, the long-term consequences of childhood myopia are cause for concern. It can lead to various eye health issues, including:
Increased Risk of Eye Diseases
When myopia reaches its highest levels, it increases the risk of developing severe eye issues. Think of things like cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal detachment. Suppose these conditions don’t get attended to. In that case, they can lead to vision problems or even the dreaded prospect of blindness.
Progression of Myopia
Myopia worsens over time, especially during a child’s growth and development. High levels of myopia increase the risk of rapid advancement, making it essential to address the condition early.
Reduced Academic Performance
Myopia can put a real damper on a child’s school performance. It’s like trying to watch a movie with a blurry screen – they might have trouble seeing what’s written on the board and reading their school books. This can understandably lead to frustration and slow down their learning journey.
Impact on Quality of Life
Using glasses or contact lenses to fix myopia can influence a child’s self-esteem and general quality of life. They may feel self-conscious and believe it limits what they can do in various activities.
Addressing Myopia in Kids
Taking preventative measures to stop myopia from forming or worsening is essential, as there are known lifetime consequences your child can get from having it. Some things that parents can do to help their children avoid getting it or control myopia’s progress are the following:
Motivate your child to enjoy the great outdoors. Research indicates that kids who spend at least two hours of outdoor time daily are less likely to develop myopia. Good old-fashioned sunlight also offers a safeguard for their eye health.
Screen Time Management
Limit screen time, especially for younger children. The blue light emitted by digital screens can contribute to myopia development. Ensure children take regular breaks during screen time and maintain an appropriate viewing distance.
Ensure that the lighting in your home is adequate for reading and other activities. The eyes can strain and develop myopia as a result of poor lighting.
Encourage a well-rounded diet that’s packed with eye-friendly nutrients. Load up on foods rich in vitamins A, C, and E and omega-3 fatty acids. These goodies are vital in keeping your cornea and retina in tip-top shape.
Regular Eye Exams
Schedule regular eye exams for your child, starting at a young age. Myopia can be managed, and appropriate intervention is possible with early detection. An optometrist can prescribe glasses or contact lenses and monitor the progression of myopia.
Atropine Eye Drops
Some eye care professionals may recommend atropine eye drops to slow myopia progression in children. These drops dilate the pupil and relax the focusing mechanism of the eye.
Orthokeratology, or ortho-k, involves using specially designed contact lenses worn overnight to reshape the cornea. This temporary reshaping can provide clear vision during the day and slow the progression of myopia.
Specialized Glasses and Lenses
Eye care providers frequently suggest specialty lenses and eyewear, such as multifocal or bifocal, to treat children’s myopia.
Monitor Near Work Activities
Pay close attention to how your child spends time reading and using screens. Remind them to take breaks and keep a comfortable reading distance to avoid straining their eyes.
Lead by Example
Children often emulate their parents’ behavior. If you prioritize eye health and engage in outdoor activities, your child will likely follow suit.
Taking Action Against Myopia
The good news is there are ways to slow down myopia’s progression, with special eye drops and glasses. With more and more kids dealing with myopia, it’s a heads-up for pediatricians, parents, and schools. You need to look for factors that could worsen myopia, especially with all the screen time kids get nowadays.