Myopia, more commonly known as short sightedness or near sightedness, is where the power of the eye is too strong, or the eye is too big, causing objects in the distance to appear blurred.
Patients who are myopic frequently see a decline in their prescription over time; this is especially true for children as the eye grows.
The prevalence of myopia is projected to increase from approximately two billion people worldwide in 2010 to almost five billion people in 2050, bringing with it long term health challenges. In the UK alone, myopia prevalence in children aged between 10-16 years old has more than doubled over the last 50 years, and children are becoming myopic at a younger age.
The Northern Ireland Childhood Errors of Refraction (NICER) study found that children with one myopic parent were 2.91 times more likely to develop myopia than those with no myopic parents, and children with two myopic parents were 7.79 times more likely.
Myopia not only blurs vision, but children diagnosed with myopia are more likely to experience a faster decline in their vision.
As myopia progresses children generally become more dependent on their glasses, which can impact on their ability to partake in certain activities such as sports. In addition, higher levels of myopia increase the risk of developing other eye conditions in later life, such as glaucoma, cataract, retinal detachment and myopic maculopathy.
Although some of the risk factors associated with the development of myopia are out of our control, there are some simple things that can be done to reduce the chances of your child becoming myopic.
- Encourage your child to spend more time outdoors, evidence suggests that exposure to outdoor light is beneficial in slowing the onset and progression of myopia – but UV protection is still important so children should wear sunglasses and a hat
- Outdoor sport and play of at least 90 minutes a day can reduce the risk of myopia – looking at your tablet or phone when outside doesn’t count!
- Other than when at school, or doing homework, it is advised that children spend no more than an additional 2 hours on close up tasks. This includes the use of electronic devices such as PC’s, laptops, tablets and mobile phones, as well as reading and drawing
Regular eye examinations are essential for everyone, and in the case of myopia catching the early signs before it fully develops can help to slow down its onset and progression. If your child is overdue an eye examination, please call us to arrange an appointment.
For children who are already short sighted and are at risk of their myopia progressing, Myopia Management (sometimes referred to as Myopia Control) can help slow down it’s progression.
Myopia Management offers an alternative option for children already using glasses to correct their short-sightedness, and involves the use of contact lenses to slow down its progression.
Contact lenses used in Myopia Management have 2 different focus zones. The central zone provides the child clear central vision, and the peripheral zone produces a blurred image on the peripheral retina. This blurred image on the peripheral retina reduces the eye’s stimulus to grow and become more myopic.
We recommend Myopia Control contact lenses from the age of 7, whilst this may seem very young to some parents, many are amazed at just how capable children are at handling contact lenses! In addition we take our time to carefully teach you and your child how to handle, insert and care for their lenses.
Many parents also worry about the risk of infection when young children wear contact lenses, reassuringly research shows that the risk of infections from contact lens wear is no higher for children than adults, and interestingly younger children appear to be in the lowest risk group of all.
- The MiSight daily disposable contact lens for myopia of less than -6.00 is an excellent option for many children, but other soft lens options are available for more complex prescriptions
- A further option is Orth-K lenses, your child is only required to wear these lenses overnight, as the lens reshapes the cornea whilst your child sleeps. This option not only reduces myopic progression, but also enables your child to see clearly throughout the day without the use of spectacles or contact lenses