Myopia, also known as near-sightedness, is one of the most common vision problems to affect school-aged children. In fact, studies estimate that as many as 9% of children aged 5-17 are currently affected, and this is expected to rise over the coming decade.
People who have myopia are able to see nearby objects, like a book or smartphone screen, easily and without needing glasses or contact lenses. However, the further away from an object is from their eyes, the blurrier it becomes. These people need to use prescription lenses to be able to see clearly at distance.
The last year has raised concerns about the level and progression of myopia in school-aged children. Screen use and a lack of natural daylight are two factors that are thought to strongly influence the development and progression of myopia. While the number of children with the condition was already expected to rise over the coming years, there are some experts that believe that the events of the last year may have exacerbated that even further. Not only has quarantine meant that we’ve all been forced to spend much more time at home and inside than normal, countless children have been learning online rather than going to school, meaning that on top of their usual leisure screen time, they are also doing many hours of digital learning. It is the combination of this additional screen use and time spent out of natural daylight that could have an impact on the progression of myopia in children already identified with the condition, as well as creating an influx of new cases.
Myopia is a naturally progressive condition and unfortunately, a number of complications have been linked to high levels of myopia. The earlier myopia begins, the more time it has to progress, and therefore the more likely the patient is to experience high myopia in the future. Adults today with high myopia usually started becoming near-sighted when they were young children, with their vision worsening year after year.
Some of the complications that are associated with high myopia include:
A condition characterized by high pressure inside the eyes damages the optic nerve and leads to irreversible vision loss if not treated quickly.
Cataracts occur when the natural lens of the eye begins to cloud over, which is a result of changes in the proteins found within it. The effect is like looking through frosted glass. The only long-term treatment for cataracts is to remove the frosted lens and replace it with an artificial alternative.
High myopia is a clear risk factor for retinal detachment. This is where the part of the eye called the retina comes away from surrounding structures and is something that can cause permanent and total vision loss.
Fortunately, there are now options that can be used to control and even halt the progression of myopia in school-aged children. These include:
Low dose atropine eye drops: Which are believed to stop the eye from lengthening too much as the child grows, reducing the progression of myopia.
Peripheral defocus contact lenses: These contact lenses have multiple areas of focus that are similar to looking at a dartboard, with central vision the clearest and the outer portions of the lens in progressively less focus. Blurring peripheral vision is thought to slow the growth of the eye and limit the progression of myopia.
Orthokeratology: These are also contact lenses, but these are worn while the child sleeps. These bespoke contact lenses have special properties which reshape the cornea while the patient is asleep, and this could help to slow down myopia progression. Orthokeratology, also known as Ortho-K, has the added benefit of supporting the eyes in retaining their new shape for some hours after waking, meaning that the patient can see clearly without using glasses or contact lenses for some time during the day. The more consistently the Ortho-K lenses are worn overnight, the longer the eyes will be able to retain their new shape and your child see clearly without prescription lenses.
Learn more about treating myopia in children, contact TMS Eyecare in Arkansas City & Wichita, KS at (620) 442-2577, (316) 686-7212, or (316) 669-4760.