Pediatric Myopia: Nearsightedness in Children
Myopia is an acuity disorder that causes poor distance vision. Objects past a certain length appear blurry to individuals with this condition. It may be difficult or impossible for children with myopia to read a board in a classroom or play sports where the ball may bounce away at any moment, out of focus, or any number of tasks that require distance vision. Unfortunately, the rate of prevalence of pediatric myopia has been increasing since the 1900’s, nearly doubling in frequency among children in the United States over the past century.1 So what causes myopia, and how can we work to prevent it?
Myopia results when light entering the pupil does not land exactly on the retina at the back of the eye. The retina contains thousands of light sensors, known as our rods and cones, which detect light and create the picture our brain sees when we look at the world around us. If the light our eye is detecting does not land on these sensors but instead lands in front of it, due to a misshape of the eyeball or cornea, as is the case in myopia, the picture our brain sees is distorted and hence appears blurry.
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This disorder has been on the rise since the Industrial Revolution era, and the likely causes of this incline are not mysterious. Since that era, the number of children performing more near-work (reading, writing, viewing computer screens, looking at tablets, etc.) has increased while the amount of time spent outdoors has decreased. This is especially true of the last three decades, where much of children’s learning and daily activities are done online. There is a very strong correlation between too much screen/near-work time and the development of myopia in adolescents and adults. As myopia becomes more prevalent, so does the risk of future generations to develop it. The likelihood of developing myopia is 25% if one parent has the condition and 50% if both parents have the condition[i]. Myopia can be more dangerous than just requiring glasses. According to the Review of Myopia Management, the risk of developing glaucoma, cataracts, and macular retinopathy (disease in the retina) is significantly higher in individuals with myopia, and the risk increases with each diopter of myopia.[ii]
There are many ways of preventing the development or worsening of myopia, but in order to address the problem, the best way to start is by receiving a comprehensive eye exam given by an optometrist. School vision screenings can be a guiding tool, but the only way to be sure your child has received the proper diagnosis is to undergo a full eye exam. Pediatric eye care is very important, and eye exams should be given as early in a child’s growth as possible and preferably by the age of 3 years old, though an eye exam can be given as soon as 6 months of age. While glasses may be necessary for some children, they are not the key to preventing myopia or the development of more severe myopia. Rather, it is important to limit screen time and spend plenty of time outside. Physical exercise has also been correlated with limiting the development of myopia.[iii] One important rule to remember is 20/20/20: For every 20 minutes of near-work (reading or screen time), you should look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This helps prevent the weakening of the focusing muscles in the eye that could increase the severity of myopia. Vision therapy can also provide skills to patients to reduce the development of myopia by training patients to utilize their ocular focusing system more effectively!
If you would like to learn more about how vision therapy can help prevent myopia and other visual developmental disorders in children, contact our office, The Center for Vision Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We offer comprehensive visual developmental exams in our Austin eye care clinic and visual therapy services in both Austin and Waco.
Key words: pediatric eye care, vision care Austin, Austin eye care