Understanding Myopia: The Parents’ Guide to Better Eye Health for Their Children

A girl wearing glasses is sitting at the window with her legs crossed in front of her.
A girl wearing glasses is sitting at the window with her legs crossed in front of her. Image: Pexels.

The evidence is clear: good vision is crucial in a child’s early development. Researchers from UCLA estimate that upwards of 80% of all learning is visual. For younger children who are just building the foundations of their social, physical, mental, and academic knowledge, having any vision problem can be significant.

 

Unfortunately, health experts have shared that there is currently a global myopia epidemic that is particularly pronounced among children. According to an NPR report, myopia cases in the US alone have nearly doubled over the past 50 years, with the majority of incidences occurring among kids. This trend is similar in other countries, hence why the WHO believes that over 40% of the global population will have this eye condition by 2030. But what is myopia really? And how can parents protect their children from this?

 

Myopia 101

 

Also called nearsightedness, myopia is an ocular condition in which the eyeball or the cornea is abnormally shaped. This affects the clarity of the light that enters the eyes, causing further objects to look blurry. To date, the precise cause of myopia is uncertain, but evidence has shown that several factors can trigger it and hasten development. Unfortunately, children today are highly exposed to these factors, which is worrisome because their eyes are still growing and thus more susceptible. So, what are these factors? Not enough time outside and too much screen time.

 

According to doctors, because screen time is usually a “near-work” task, engaging in this for extended periods inadvertently trains the eyes to stick to this distance. At the same time, a lack of sun exposure can help regulate retinal dopamine. These neurotransmitters are responsible for eye growth, thereby helping prevent the elongation associated with myopia. Having said this, myopia is a progressive condition that can heighten the risk of later developing other serious problems like glaucoma. Because kids often don’t have the language to articulate their eye problems and initial myopia symptoms are subtle, most parents only find out about their children’s nearsightedness when it’s already taken root. Fortunately, there are ways to treat this.

 

Common visual impairments. Astigmatism, myopia and hyperopia. Illustration of three visual defects of vision.Study medicine vision treatment.
Common visual impairments. Astigmatism, myopia and hyperopia. Illustration of three visual defects of vision. Study medicine vision treatment. Image: Adobe Stock.

Treating myopia

 

Although myopia is irreversible, it can be prevented from getting worse. The primary means of doing so is via medical devices, like specs and contacts. Corrective prescription glasses help balance vision so that there is no need to strain the eyes or force one to compensate for the other, thereby worsening the condition. Since these lenses can be rather thick, brands like Warby Parker have specs specially made for smaller faces. As most kids are also farsighted, your child

may benefit from bifocal glasses. As seen on retailer Readers, these glasses seamlessly transition between near and far distances for continuous visual comfort and clarity. Since these glasses also provide UV protection, they prevent sun damage that might worsen eye health.

 

Another means of treating myopia is through contact lenses called ortho-k, which are meant to be used during sleep. Available from major brands like CooperVision, these lenses are specially designed to correct excessive corneal curvature that is common in myopia patients. That said, this intervention is not recommended for very young children who may not understand the necessary hygiene required by contacts.

 

In addition to using these tools, myopia can also be treated with holistic methods, like nutrition. This will be especially helpful for very young children who struggle to use their glasses or contacts. For the best results, feed your child a healthy diet with lots of eye-friendly foods. These include carrots, which are rich in beta-carotene, which helps the eyes see in the dark, and raisins, which have polyphenols that protect from free radicals. While this will not target the condition as effectively, it can still improve overall eye function.

 

Read more articles from Rosetta on our blog Rosetta Jackson – iN Education Inc. (ineducationonline.org)

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