Is your child having trouble reading the blackboard? Do they sit too close to the television or hold their books really close? Or perhaps they squint or close one eye while reading? If your answer to even one of these questions is yes, then your child is probably suffering from myopia.
Myopia or nearsightedness is a common eye problem or refraction error and in India, one out of every two people has it. If you have myopia, you can see objects near you clearly, but objects that are farther away appear blurry. This happens because the shape of the eye is longer than normal or the cornea is deeply curved, resulting in the light rays refracting or bending incorrectly, focusing only on the images right in front of your retina. It may sound daunting but myopia is treatable and can be correct with prescription glasses, contact lenses, or surgery. However, if left untreated, myopia can eventually result in severe eye problems like cataracts, glaucoma, and even vision loss.
Causes Of Childhood Myopia
Childhood-onset myopia is most commonly caused by the eyes growing longer than normal (axial length). Genetics, environment, and the individual’s characteristics can all contribute to this excess growth. Therefore, even if one parent is myopic, their children will also be at risk of developing this condition. It should be noted that myopia progresses more quickly in young children than in adults, as their eyes are still growing, thereby leading to a stronger prescription of glasses, and of course more health risks.
The question on every parent’s mind, can myopia be controlled? Or is this just fake news? Studies suggest that although myopia cannot be cured permanently, early detection is certainly the key to slowing its progress down to half. Now you may think, what about laser eye surgery? While medical science has advanced over the years with miraculous results, the risk is far too great when it comes to our children’s vision. Since the eyes tend to continue to grow till the age of 20 years, it is not advisable for children to undergo laser eye surgery as it could lead to unexpected results.
Myopia Management In Children
As is the case with any chronic condition, management is the key to slowing down its progress. Here are a few things you, as parents, can do to help your child inculcate healthy eye habits.
1. Limit Exposure To Screens
Limit your child’s screen time. Ensure your child does not spend more than three hours a day — in addition to school time — on eye-straining activities such as reading, doing homework, watching TV, or playing video games.
2. Position Gadgets At A Distance
Do not let your kids sit too close to the television. Position the TV or computer in such a way that it avoids eye strain.
3. Take A Break From Digital Screens
Encourage your kids to take a break from digital screens. Every 20 minutes make sure they blink their eyes or look across the room for 20 seconds.
4. Take It Outside!
Take it outside! Make sure your kids spend time outdoors playing sports or any other activities for at least 90 minutes a day. The golden rule is no phones or iPads when outdoors.
5. Get Kid’s Sunglasses
Although exposure to sunlight is great for children with myopia, remember UV protection is still important! Ensure your child wears sunglasses and a hat to shield their eyes from sun damage.
When Should You Start Myopia Management?
ASAP! Studies suggest that the earlier a child becomes myopic, the faster their vision will deteriorate. It’s scary to think that your child needs eyeglasses so early, but rest assured it does them a world of good. Eyeglasses and contact lenses are safe at any age and are the recommended treatment to slow down myopia.
When Can You Stop Myopia Management?
You can stop managing myopia when your child becomes an adult, at the age of 21 years. As your kids grow up, myopia stops progressing. Research states that by the age of 16, myopia is stabilized in around 50 percent of children suffering from it. By age 18, this number will increase to 75 percent and by age 21, it will further increase to 90 percent. Although your child’s (now, a young adult) myopia is stable, he/she will still need regular eye exams to monitor their eye health, because higher levels of myopia mean higher risks of eye diseases and even vision impairment in adulthood.