WHEN YOUR CHILD COMPLAINS ABOUT THEIR EYESIGHT, AND THE LINES ARE BLURRED...
Noticed that your little one has been squinting at the TV lately? Or complaining that they can’t see if you point at something? Are they not wanting to go to school because they have a headache? You might feel like they are joking around and trying to get a day off. Who doesn’t want to stay at home and watch Netflix?
While it might be fun and games, and a little silly at times, deep down, you might realise this is more than a little joke, pretending that they cannot “see”. If you answered yes to any of the above, then chances are that your child may be myopic or nearsighted.
While a diagnosis of myopia might not sound serious, and cannot be made without seeing a professional, it’s important to treat myopia as soon as possible. Many parents are surprised to find out myopia can put their kids at risk for serious vision-related conditions later in life.
So, why do we care about this so much?
It’s International Myopia Awareness Week this week. And, the number of people affected by nearsightedness is increasing rapidly. According to a recent study, half the population of the world (about 5 million people) is expected to suffer from this condition by 2050! Researchers mainly blame our modern lifestyles, involving the excessive use of smartphones, laptops and the subsequent lack of natural sunlight and outdoor activities.
It is by far the most common eyesight issue among children. And while it's true that most cases of nearsightedness develop in childhood, it can develop in young adults if we don’t heed the lifestyle change warnings. too.
Still a bit confused as to what myopia really is and how it works?
Think of your eyes as working like an old-fashioned projector. When light falls on your eyes, it passes through the cornea of your eye and into the lens. The lens then focuses it onto the retina at the back of your eye and creates an image which is then transmitted to your brain. This is how you see the world clearly. However, to produce a clear image, the cornea must have an even curve, and the eye also needs to be at the right length.
In myopic people, the eye is too long. This means when you look at any distant object, the light rays don’t focus on your retina, but in front of it. As a result, a blurry image is formed and transmitted to the brain, making the object in the distance appear blurry.
Myopia progression in children is much more than needing to update your child's glasses regularly.
As stated above, medical research shows that myopia progression in children can actually be dangerous. Myopia usually starts developing in childhood, between ages 6 and 12. Our eyeballs continue to grow in our teenage years, and if a child or teenager is suffering from myopia, it tends to worsen quickly during this age, putting them at risk of developing dangerous eye diseases later in life.
These can include retinal detachment, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts. The faster the progression of myopia, and the younger the child when it starts, the greater the risk later on in life.
Common myopia symptoms to be looking out for include:
Having clear sight up-close when objects further away appear blurry
Children who are nearsighted may move closer to TV screens, hold books closer when reading or show lack of interest in sports and other outdoor activities as it requires a clear distance vision.
One of the best things you can do to slow your child’s myopia progression is to ensure that he or she has annual eye exams.
In addition, studies have shown that children who spend at least 90 minutes a day playing outdoors in natural sunlight have slower myopia progression than children who stay indoors. . It may be the brightness of the natural sunlight that helps – but be warned: it’s definitely not the UV light! So don’t forget to wear hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen when you implement this tip.
A healthy diet will also contribute greatly, so include plenty of fruits, leafy greens and fish high in omega-fatty acids.
Doing close work, such as digital screens, reading, and doing homework has been linked to myopia.
To try and prevent myopia, here are some great tips.One well-known eye exercise which has become famous during the 2020 “work-from-home” movement , is the 20-20-20 rule.
Make sure to take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes. Thisensures your eyes get a well-deserved break from the screen.
Encourage your kids to look out the window, stand up and stretch, or get up and drink some water at regular intervals when using devices . And, don’t forget to lead by example!
Also, ensure there is good lighting when your child is reading or doing homework, which will relieve any eye strain.
Keeping a good working distance (holding reading material further from your eyes ), is also always recommended. For a child, the recommended distance is the same length as their forearm (elbow to knuckle).
But my child already has myopia. What is the best thing I can do?
While all of the above are great tips for general eye health and vision wellbeing, once a child has developed myopia, the best course of action is decisive myopia control management. Optometrists who specialise in myopia will be able to advise on which myopia management techniques will suit you and your child.
The most effective treatment options are targeted at reducing the driving force of the myopia progression, with the goal to slow down or even stop the myopia. There are various world recognised myopia control treatments,, including myopia-control specific glasses, bifocal or multifocal contact lenses, orthokeratology, and medicated eye drops.
If you think your child might have myopia, or another hampering eye condition, our myopia-specialist optometrists can offer the advice and support you need.
Book an appointment here.