Is your child spending too much time indoors glued to their tablets, smartphones, or computer screens? It has been found that extended periods of using gadgets are tied to the increasing number of childhood myopia cases.
Unfortunately, most parents don’t fully understand myopia or the options available to help slow its progression in their children. The first step in reducing the risk of vision problems is to know the common facts about myopia, and when to seek medical attention.
In this blog, we’ll discuss the meaning of myopia, its implications, possible treatments, and other things you should know about the condition.
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1. What is childhood myopia?
Childhood myopia, or nearsightedness, is a common eye condition in which the eyeball is too long from front to back. As a result, it produces an unfocused image on the retina, often seen as blurry. This means that your child can see objects that are near well but have difficulty seeing objects that are far.
In Singapore, the incidence of myopia in children is very high, making the country the “Myopia Capital of the World.” About 65 percent of children develop myopia by Primary 6. By 2050, experts project that about 80 to 90 percent of all Singaporean adults over 18 will be myopic. Childhood myopia affects about one in four 7-year-olds, a third of children aged 9, and half of the 12-year-olds.
2. What causes myopia?
Though the exact cause of myopia is unknown, evidence shows an interplay between genetics and environmental factors that heighten the risk in children. A study has shown that progressive childhood myopia or nearsightedness is tied to hereditary factors. Children of myopic parents are more likely to have myopia.
Another study supported this theory, as it found that parental myopia was significantly associated with childhood myopia. Children have a higher risk if their parents have myopia. Though, the study emphasised that parental myopia is not just a hereditary factor since parents and their children have similar behavioural habits and environments.
Another known risk factor of childhood myopia is the increased indoor activities they engage in nowadays, especially during the pandemic when classes were held online. Reading, writing, playing video games, using smartphones, and online work are among the visual tasks children perform regularly. These close-up tasks, especially when performed for a long period, may also lead to myopia. Plus, the lack of time spent outdoors is a major factor for rising myopia cases.
3. Can myopia lead to blindness?
Myopia progresses over time. It usually starts between the ages of 5 and 15 but stabilises by age 20.
The eye condition could worsen if it’s uncorrected, affecting your child’s quality of life. Severe myopia has an increased risk of eyestrain and, in worse cases, cataract, retinal detachment, and glaucoma. These severe complications can cause blindness if they’re not treated appropriately.
Safety is also a concern since children are active outdoors and play with other kids. If their vision is impaired, they can suffer from injuries due to falls and other accidents.
Read: Myopia Control
4. What are the symptoms of childhood myopia?
Childhood myopia can be hard to catch in small children. However, school-aged children may complain that they cannot see things like the whiteboard or signages at school. Other telltale signs include squinting while watching TV, reading, or doing homework, frequent headaches, closing one eye to read, rubbing of eyes, excess watering of the eyes, and holding objects too close to the face.
5. How is myopia diagnosed?
One of the simplest yet effective ways to detect the condition is through a routine basic eye exam with an ophthalmologist or optometrist.
A first eye exam should be scheduled before kindergarten. Since myopia runs in families, if anyone has vision problems, it’s important to have your children’s eyes assessed early. Vision problems are referred to your eye doctor for further evaluation.
6. What is the treatment for myopia?
Though there is no cure for myopia, there are steps you can take to prevent it from getting worse, and support your child’s overall eye health.
Children with myopia are often prescribed eyeglasses or contact lenses, which are the easiest ways to correct vision issues caused by refractive errors. Other treatments include atropine drops, and vision therapy.
7. How can you prevent myopia from getting worse?
Myopia is inherited and for that reason, it isn’t totally possible to prevent it. However, here are some measures that can prevent myopia from worsening.
Limit the duration of near vision tasks. Make sure to let the kids rest their eyes after near-vision activities like reading.
Make a habit of spending time outdoors.. Studies have shown that outdoor activities can suppress the progression of myopia. Children who spend at least 90 minutes in natural sunlight every day have slower myopia progression rates. Encourage your child to spend time outdoors, away from the TV, computer, or gadgets.
Work in a well-lighted room. Make sure to provide a space that is well-lighted for your kids to study or do their homework. Avoid doing tasks in dim light.
Schedule regular eye exams. It’s important to detect myopia in children early. Make sure to schedule their routine eye exams by their ophthalmologist.
Eat a healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet rich in nutrients that are good for the eye can help slow the progression of myopia. These include foods rich in vitamin A like carrots, sweet potatoes and squash; vitamin C like strawberries, broccoli, and citrus fruits; and lutein like green leafy vegetables.
Read: Myopia Control: Caring for Your Child’s Eyes
Childhood myopia is a growing vision problem among children today. Since children spend a hefty amount of time indoors, their eye health suffers. When their vision is impaired, their school performance will, too. That’s why now more than ever, it’s important to have your kids’ eyes checked regularly.
Schedule an eye exam with us today. Our medical director, Dr Jimmy Lim at JL Eye Specialists, will help you personalise and form a treatment plan for your child.