What is myopia?
More commonly known as shortsightedness or nearsightedness, myopia is a condition where the eyes typically have overgrown and light is not able to focus correctly at the back of the eyes.
How can I tell if my child is shortsighted?
Whilst a full eye examination is the only way to truly tell if your child is shortsighted, there are some signs that can give you clues as to whether your child is affected. These include:
Blurriness while looking far into the distance - usually noticed when looking at road signs while in a vehicle, or looking at the board in a classroom environment.
Squinting while watching TV or in the classroom
Headaches after prolonged visual tasks
Poor posture while reading
Lack of interest in outdoor games, playing sports or in classroom
What causes myopia?
While it is not completely well understood what causes shortsightedness, recent research has shown that there are environmental as well as genetic factors at play. Amongst these are:
Lack of outdoor daylight exposure
Excessive near work
Myopia is frequently diagnosed between 8 and 12 years of age, and tends to progress more rapidly through the teenage years as their eyes grow along with their body.
It has been shown that having one shortsighted parent significantly increases a child’s risk of developing myopia, while having both parents shortsighted gives them around a 70% chance of developing it themselves.
Visit this website for a free tool that helps you determine the risk that your child has of becoming shortsighted:
How will having myopia affect my child?
Low amounts of shortsightedness may simply be an inconvenience and necessitate the use of spectacles or contact lenses in order to see clearly in the distance.
Higher levels of shortsightedness however can result in significantly increased risks:
4.2 to 7.6 times the risk of glaucoma
4 to 10 times the risk of retinal detachment - a medical emergency that can lead to blindness
Cataracts, and the risk of complications following cataract surgery
These numbers are comparable to the effects of smoking on the eye! As such, it is important we do what we can to prevent your child from becoming highly myopic.
What can be done?
While there is no cure for shortsightedness at this stage, extensive research is always ongoing all around the world in trying to slow down the overgrowth of the eyes.
To summarize, there are several main methods shown to be effective in slowing down the worsening of myopia:
Orthokeratology (night time lenses) - these lenses reshape the cornea as your child sleeps, so when they wake up in the morning and remove the lenses, they are able to see clearly without having to wear any glasses or contacts. It also has the desirable effect of slowing down the progression of the eyeball growth by a reported 50%, making it arguably the most proven effective treatment available.
Multifocal soft contact lenses - to be worn throughout the day, and will replace the need for glasses wear on a daily basis. The mechanism is similar to orthokeratology lenses in that it tricks the eye into slowing down the growth of the eyes. The benefit here is that it is a more comfortable softer lens, albeit for it to be worn during the day.
Atropine eye drops - drops to be put in just before bedtime. Only prescribed in a very low dosage, it is rather effective in inhibiting the worsening of the near-sightedness - however recent research may have shown that it is not so effective at slowing down the growth of the eyeball, which may still result in an increased risk of eye disease in the future. There may still be a place for this treatment, however this will be judged on a case-by-case basis.
NEW: Specialist spectacle lenses - to be worn just like normal glasses. Various manufacturers have had a go at making a spectacle lens to mimic the effect of the proven contact lens solutions mentioned above, with varying success. The latest lens has proven to be the most effective, and will likely suit a wide range of children, especially those that are unsuitable for contact lens wear.
Read more: Glasses to help prevent short-sightedness
Each have their benefits, and seem to be more suitable and effective depending on each individual child and their level of shortsightedness. Here at Westgate Optometrists, we offer all of those options, and we take into account the level of maturity and dexterity of your child to determine which is the most suitable solution for them.
On the whole, these myopia control measures have been shown to be effective at reducing the rate of worsening by between 30-60%. However, this reduction exponentially reduces the risk of your child developing the aforementioned complications that is typically associated with high levels of myopia.
If you would like to do more reading into each specific treatment option, check out the page below which had been written by our colleagues from the United States.
Otherwise, simply call in for a chat with our optometrist to discuss what is most suitable for your child.
Is there evidence for this?
Yes, there has been plenty of research into the efficacy of each type of treatments. Most of the links that we have referred to on this page contains references to the research papers from which the findings were used to deduce a plan of action. The following two pages also have plenty of useful information if you would like to do some further reading.
What should I do next?
If you have been told that you are short-sighted and would like to know your options - simply book in for a complimentary appointment with our optometrist, where we can go through your previous prescriptions, and discuss the various options for ensuring your shortsightedness is minimised as much as possible.
Simply call us on 09 831 0202, or if you prefer you can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.