Let's have a chat about MYOPIA
Myopia (often called short sightedness) is an eye health issue that every parent should be aware of but may not know about.
What is myopia?
Myopia is blurry long-distance vision, often called “short-sighted’’ or “near-sighted”. A person with myopia can see clearly up close, for example when reading a book or looking at a phone but words and objects look fuzzy on a blackboard, on television or when driving. But getting a pair of glasses to make things clearer isn't the whole story.
A recent study in Australia showed that the prevalence among 12 year olds doubled in 6 years. Myopia in kids tends to progress or get worse throughout childhood, and higher levels of myopia are associated with higher eye disease risks in adulthood.
If your child already wears glasses, you can do something to stop their vision worsening.
If they don't you can assess their risk of developing myopia by getting them screened and having a ‘myopiachat’ / consultation with one of our clinicians.
Myopia occurs when the eyeball grows too quickly in childhood, or starts growing again in adulthood.
Childhood onset myopia is most commonly caused by the eyes growing at a faster rate than usual, or continuing to grow after age 10-12 when eye growth typically ceases.
Genetics, environment and the individual’s characteristics can all contribute to this excess growth.
In younger children, myopia progresses more quickly because their eyes are growing at a faster rate, leading to higher levels of myopia, stronger glasses and more eye health risks.
Adult onset myopia usually occurs as an adaptation to fatigued eye focusing muscles due to a significant increase in close work, such as sixth form or university studies or starting a new role or using screens more.
Why should I be concerned?
Myopia is becoming more common in children around the world – in Australia the prevalence among 12-year-olds doubled between 2005 and 2011.
The average age for developing myopia is reducing – younger onset means faster and more eye growth, which increases likelihood of high power myopia and higher risk of eye diseases such as the following:
Retinal detachment – the light sensitive ‘film’ lining the back of the eye pulls away from its base, causing distorted vision or blindness depending on its location.
Myopic macular degeneration – loss of central vision clarity, like having a thick ‘smudge’ or ‘smear’ permanently in the middle of your vision.
Glaucoma – increased pressure in the eye which damages peripheral vision, Glaucoma is sometimes called the ‘sneak thief of sight’ as very few people who have it notice its symptoms until it is very advanced.
Cataract – a cloudy window in the middle of the eye, like looking through a misty / foggy windscreen.
The average cost of glasses or contact lenses amounts over lifetime for a myopic person could easily exceed £20,000.
Higher myopia reduces quality of life and is more costly to correct with glasses and contact lenses.
What causes myopia?
Spending more time doing close work has been linked to development of myopia, such as reading, playing computer games, drawing or using smart phones and tablets.
Electronic handheld devices are easy for toddlers to use resulting in increased exposure to close work at a younger age.
Myopia can be hereditary, and a person’s ethnicity and family background can increase the risk.
Research suggests a link between Asian ethnicity and faster progression of myopia, with higher worldwide prevalence in this group of people.
A person with one short-sighted parent has three times the risk of developing myopia – or six times the risk if both parents are short-sighted.
Some studies seem to show that children are more likely to be short-sighted if their parents finished high school or went to university.
Under or over-corrected vision (wearing incorrect spectacles / contact lenses or having no spectacles or contact lenses when they are needed) has been shown to promote the onset of myopia and accelerate the progression of myopia.
How can I prevent or slow myopia?
Catching early signs of myopia before it fully develops can help slow onset and progression – if you are in any doubt make an appointment for a check up with one of our clinicians.
Children should not spend more than three hours a day (in addition to school time) on close work such as reading, homework or screen-time.
When using a computer, ensure it is properly positioned to avoid eye strain and take breaks every 20 minutes by looking across the room for 20 seconds.
Smart phones are popular for children and teenagers who can spend long periods of time on texting, social media, reading and games, but too much screen time is linked to myopia, can cause dry eyes, and increase risk of eye damage and diseases in adulthood similar to UV damage.
The blue-white bright light from tablets and phones can damage long-term eye health and affect sleep – while there are no guidelines yet on how much to limit a child’s overall time spent on screens, it is advisable that these devices should be avoided by children and adults for several hours before bedtime.
Outdoor sport and play - at least 90 minutes a day can reduce the risk of myopia (looking at your tablet or phone when outside doesn’t count)!
There is evidence to suggest that exposure to outdoor light is beneficial in slowing onset and progression of myopia – but UV protection is still important so wear sunglasses and a hat.
My child is already myopic!
Have a ‘Myopia Chat’ with one of our clinicians - do not delay or put this off as the sooner that we can start to manage the Myopia the better.
Choose a clinician who has experience in Myopia Management (at I-Care we have been Managing Myopia for over 10 years) who offers a broad range of treatments (for example not all clinicians offer ‘night lenses’) so it’s worth making sure that whoever you go to offers a full range of Myopia Management strategies.
Specialty contact lens designs including daily wear and ‘night lenses’ (orthokeratology) or Myopia Management Spectacle Lens designs offer the best vision correction options to slow progression of myopia.
Research has shown that specially designed glasses lenses are effective at slowing progression of myopia and your clinician will discuss all of the options before agreeing a treatment program with you.
Atropine eye drops have been shown to slow progression of myopia although they are not currently available in the UK (except in special circumstances), their use is gaining popularity elsewhere in the world.
So isn't it about time you had a Myopiachat for yourself or for your family?