Myopia Progression in Children - An Epidemic of Short-Sightedness
Myopia (short-sightedness or near-sightedness) is a disease that is rapidly increasing amongst children of school-going age (6 - 18 years).
The causes of poor eyesight in children are often structural defects in the eyes, deficits in vision, and eye diseases.
The eyes either do not correctly record the images from the environment and / or the normal images recorded by both eyes cannot be interpreted correctly by the brain to form an overall picture. This leads to poor vision.
Since children first have to learn to see properly, until they reach school age, visual defects affect visual development, and can as a result lead to problems with the overall development of the child.
The good news: Structural defects in the eyes, poor eyesight and refractive errors can often be treated and corrected with glasses or contact lenses. It is important to identify any problems as early as possible, and have them examined by an eye care specialist.
The sooner the better!
This is the only way for the child to achieve good visual function, and to develop normally in all aspects, without any disturbance.
Children who suffer from myopia can see objects that are nearby clearly, while everything in the distance appears blurry.
This visual defect rarely occurs in the first few years of life.
Myopia can be inherited: If one parent is near-sighted, the offspring has a three times higher risk of becoming myopic themselves, compared to children of non-myopic parents. If both parents are affected by myopia, the chances are as high as six times that the child will become near-sighted.
In most cases, near-sightedness only develops during childhood. So-called ‚school myopia’ develops from the age of six.
This is due to new viewing habits and everyday routines: Schoolchildren spend a lot of time on tasks that involve a nearby focus, such as reading and writing, but also looking at screens and other displays. This stimulates the eyeball to grow - myopia is the result.
In addition, the schoolchildren spend much less time outside, than when they were in kindergarten - another factor that can cause myopia to develop.
With a pronounced myopia of more than minus six diopters, there is an increased lifetime risk of serious secondary diseases of the eyes such as retinal detachment, glaucoma or macular degeneration.
What to do?
A myopic child must wear corrective glasses or contact lenses. This will not eliminate the refractive/glasses error, but it can be neutralised. It is important to regularly check whether, and to what extent the myopia is changing or worsening.
In the past few decades, a strong increase in myopia has been noted worldwide. This has alarmed the eye care community, and research is ongoing, to find ways to reduce the risk of myopia, but also to prevent existing myopia from progressing.
Specially formulated eyedrops have been shown to be effective in slowing down and stopping myopia, and various contact lens options also help to control this condition.
The aim is to minimise the serious complications associated with severe/pathological myopia.
Prevention is better than cure!