Don't be short-sighted about myopia management
With school out for summer, the nation’s children will be looking forward to long, lazy days, playing outside or hanging out with friends – and of course, increased screentime is inevitable.
Close-up work, coupled with the fact children now start using electronic devices earlier and earlier, has been attributed as a factor in a significant rise in the prevalence of myopia in youngsters.
More commonly known as short-sightedness, myopia can have long-term implications on a child's vision and overall eye health.
As we head into the summer holidays, Scotland’s largest independent optician and hearing care specialist Duncan and Todd Group has highlighted the role of myopia management in children and the importance of early intervention to safeguard young eyes.
What is myopia?
Myopia is a refractive error that causes distant objects to appear blurred, while near objects remain clearly focused.
It’s usually caused by the eye growing too quickly in childhood and occurs due to the elongation of the eyeball, causing light to focus in front of the retina rather than directly on it.
What causes myopia?
While genetics play a significant role in myopia development as it can be hereditary, environmental factors such as excessive near work including reading, sustained use of devices and limited outdoor activities also play a part.
Recent studies have revealed a sharp increase in childhood myopia worldwide, especially in urban areas, and it’s estimated that it will affect 50% of the global population by 2050.
And research conducted in the UK found that nearly 1 in 5 teenagers here in the UK are myopic, while the prevalence of myopia in UK children is now more than double than in the 1960s.
The younger onset of shortsightedness raises concerns about the potential progression into high myopia which has associated risks later in life, including an increased risk of eye diseases such as retinal detachment, glaucoma and myopic maculopathy - which could lead to permanent vision loss.
Should you be concerned about children’s myopia?
The signs to look out for include sitting close to the TV, complaining of headaches or tired eyes and regularly rubbing their eyes. In the classroom, teachers may notice a child asking to sit near the front of the class because they find it difficult to read the whiteboard.
However, the good news is that effective myopia management in children aims to slow down the progression of myopia, reducing the risk of developing high myopia and associated eye conditions into adulthood.
What is myopia management?
Myopia management aims to slow that deterioration so that your child’s vision remains clearer for longer between eye tests.
Early intervention is crucial, as studies have shown that the greatest progression of myopia occurs during childhood and into adolescence.
Corrective lenses such as glasses and contact lenses can help provide clear distance vision for children with myopia and slow down its progression.
Duncan and Todd’s own solution, Imperium Myopia Management lenses, combine science and expertise to protect children’s visual health effectively and safely.
Imperium corrects and ultimately controls the progression of myopia, reducing the chances of suffering from eye diseases such as myopic maculopathy, which is the most common and serious sight-threatening complication of myopia.
There are also two types of contact lenses that may be used to manage myopia – soft contact lenses and orthokeratology or corneal-reshaping lenses.
Soft contact lenses are designed to change the focus of light in the peripheral vision.
Your child would wear these in a similar way to standard contact lenses, although their vision may be slightly less clear with these than with traditional contact lenses.
Ortho-K lenses are specially designed rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses, which are worn overnight. These lenses help to alter the shape of the cornea while your child sleeps, in order to temporarily reduce or correct mild myopia and reduce its progression.
So, what can you do to manage myopia in children?
Encouraging children to spend time outdoors and engage in physical activities has been associated with a reduced risk of myopia development and progression. Limiting screen time and taking regular breaks are also vital.
Duncan and Todd’s myopia management advice includes:
- Encourage as much outdoor time as possible - ideally 13 hours per week
- Reduce screentime
- 20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes of near-screen use, look up at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds
- Elbow rule: when viewing anything at a close distance, keep it at least a palm to elbow length away
Raising awareness among parents, teachers and healthcare professionals about the importance of myopia management is crucial.
Educating children about proper visual hygiene, including good posture, adequate lighting, and maintaining a suitable working distance can also contribute to managing myopia effectively.
Book an eye test
If you think you or your child may be short-sighted, you should book an eye test. You should have a routine eye test at least every two years, but you can have a test at any point if you have any concerns about your vision.