An Awareness in Preventing and Controlling Myopia in Children
24 December 2018| Last updated on 26 December 2018
Brien Holden Institute, a world renowned eyecare research center, made a forecast that in 2050
50% of the world population will have a condition called Myopia and 10% of the population will be in danger of having sight threatening condition related to shortsightedness, if uncontrolled.
This research-based forecast has created an awareness to all eyecare practitioners across the globe to keep a hawk eye on patients who are predisposed to having the said condition and to control the prescription to as low as possible aiming to decrease the risk of sight threatening eye conditions related to Myopia such as Cataracts, Macular Degeneration, Retinal Detachment and Glaucoma.
What is Myopia?
Myopia, otherwise known as shortsighted or nearsighted, is a condition wherein a person has difficulty seeing at distance and had to move closer to their object of regard to see them clearly.
It occurs when the eyeball is “too long” compared to a normal axial length of an eyeball. It can also be because the anterior clear part of the eye called cornea is too curved or the lens found inside our eye called crystalline lens is too thick in correlation to the size our eyeball.
As a result, parallel rays of light coming from infinity focus theoretically in front the retina, giving a person blurry vision when looking at far.
What Causes Myopia?
There is an ongoing debate between researchers since 1800’s regarding the primary cause of Myopia. Some researches blame it on genetics, others on environmental reasons such as constant near work and less time on outdoor activities, and a majority of eyecare practitioners blame it on both.
Genetics: According to research, if one parent is Myopic, there is a 2-3x the risk of the children having the same condition. If both parents have it, there is a 4-5x risk of their children being shortsighted. In recent years, we have noticed that children with Myopic parents seen in our clinic either have higher eyeglass prescription that their parents or their shortsightedness progressing rapidly, with the potential of the prescription being higher than their parents’ if uncontrolled.
Environmental: Late 1990’s started the evolution of our dependency on handheld devices and computers. As a result, the prevalence of Myopia in US increased by almost double in 30 years. In Britain, there is an increase of almost 30% in the 12-13 population whilst in South East Asia, a whopping 80% in the total population is already Myopic.
What can we do about it?
Outdoor Activities: It is recommended for children to have at least 2 hours of outdoor activity. It is proven to increase Dopamine and Vitamin D in the body, which help control the elongation of the eyeball.
Reduce time spent on hand-held devices and computers: The recommended number of hours to be spent on gadgets and close work devices is 2 hours per day, and that includes school work. American Academy of Pediatrics has established a screen time guide for your kids. It’s best for newborns up to 18 months old to have no screen time unless you include them in a video call. Parents’ supervision and limited screen time is advised for those older than 18 months until 24 months. Two to five years old should have a 60-minute maximum gadget time.
Clinical Visual Screening and Assessment: Proper visual screening and eye test is very important in detecting Myopia whether it runs in the family or not. If any of the family members already have the condition, it is recommended to have your children undergo an eye check with a Pediatric Optometrist/Ophthalmologist. Not wearing an appropriate eyeglass prescription pushes the Myopia to progress at a faster rate, placing our kids in higher risk of having the sight-threatening conditions.
Through an early intervention and applying a strategy for controlling Myopia, it is possible to reduce the rate of myopic progression by 50%. By doing so, we could reduce the incidence of sight threatening condition related to high Myopia by 90%.
As going outdoors is one of the modalities we practitioners recommend in controlling Myopia, it might be the best time in this cooler weather to start asking your children to start keeping their devices away and to go more outdoors to play.
Authored by Dr. Joserine Samson, OD, FBCLA
First Fellow of British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) in the Middle East