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How to Curb Myopia in Kids

Parents, and particularly those who were myopic as children, often worry about whether their children will have the same problem. Myopia is an inconvenience but a very common one. It can also easily be treated by wearing contact lenses or glasses. Plus, you will be happy to know that it doesn’t have to be hereditary. Importantly, being nearsighted does not have an effect on the academic performance of children. In fact, statistics show that myopic children generally do better in school than those with astigmatism, farsightedness, or normal eyesight.

The Causes of Myopia in Children

It isn’t completely clear why there are children who become nearsighted, when others do not. Heredity is in fact a factor, but it certainly isn’t the only one. If both biological parents are myopic, it is more likely that their children will be as well, but it is not guaranteed. In fact, it is not unheard of for parents to both be myopic, have several children, and only some of them are myopic as well.

While the exact cause, therefore, is unknown, there is some understanding with regards to its progression. Some research now show that the traditional treatments for myopia, including glasses and contacts, could actually make it worse. Hence, new lens designs are being developed to stop this, and perhaps even reverse myopia in children.

Reducing the Risk of Myopia

One of the best ways to make sure that your children do not develop myopia is by making sure they play outside as much as possible. Various studies have now shown its importance.

There is no “cure” for myopia but there are treatment options available. These treatments can lead to a slowing down the progress of myopia. It is important to do this because those with myopia, and particularly strong myopia, are more likely to develop cataracts and other eye problems. As such, myopia control is vital. Currently, four options exist as the table below highlights.

Treatment Details Studies Cons
Atropine eye drops ·  Have been around for a long time.

·  Effective

·  Short term results.

·  Most often used for uveitis and eye pain.

·  Reduces eye strain, which is why it may be suitable for myopia.

· Four studies between 1989 and 2010 showed that myopia progression in children was reduced by 81%, but this benefit does no continue after one year of treatment.

· A different study demonstrated that atropine treatment with lower dosages had the best long term effects.

· Can dilate the pupil.

· Can paralyze or relax the focusing mechanisms of the eye in full.

· Can lead to myopia rebounds.

· Unknown side effects with long term use.

· Can lead to photophobia (light sensitivity) and discomfort, blurred near vision, and reduced focusing abilities.

Orthokeratology (“Ortho-K”) ·  Gas permeable lenses worn at night.

·  Provide temporary relief.

· Some research has shown good myopia control if provided to children.

· A 2011 Japanese study showed that children, aged 12 on average, had less progression of myopia compared to those who wore regular glasses over a two year period.

· A 2012 follow up five year study showed similar results.

· A 2012 Spanish study demonstrated that myopia progression was reduced in children wearing ortho-K lenses for two years.

· A 2012 Hong Kong study that lasted two years showed similar results.

· A 2014 Taiwanese study lasted for three years and found that the progression was slower with ortho-K lenses than with atropine.

· Requires excellent hand hygiene.

· Can be uncomfortable for children to wear.

· Some people have low tolerance for contacts.

Multifocal lenses ·  Lenses with different zones and powers, correcting all vision problems.

·  When delivered as a contact lens, it may help with myopia control.

· A 2010 Australian, American, and Chinese study demonstrated that progression was reduced by 54% after just six months of wearing the lenses.

· A 2011 New Zealand study found that 70% of all participants could enjoy a 30% reduction in their myopia progression.

· A 2013 U.S. study that took two years to complete, progression of myopia was reduced by 50%.

· Requires excellent hand hygiene.

· Can be uncomfortable for children to wear.

· Some people have low tolerance for contacts.

Multifocal eyeglasses Glasses that allow for different focuses depending on distance. · The COMET (Correction of Myopia Evaluation Trial) found that multifocal eyeglasses were better at slowing down myopia progression than regular lenses in the first year.

· A 2014 Australian and Chinese study stated that wearing bifocal glasses for three years significantly slowed down progression.

· Results haven’t been as good.

· No significant reduction in myopia.

The Importance of Early Detection

In order to stop nearsightedness from progressing much further, and very quickly, it has to be detected early. It is common for myopic children to have no complaints and to perform very well at school, which means it can be difficult to spot. This is why you should schedule your children for a regular examination. This is particularly true if anyone else in your family is myopic.

Studies on Childhood Myopia

There have been numerous studies that have looked at different factors that may have an influence on myopia, possibly enabling parents to make changes to their children’s lifestyles. These studies include:

Year Name of Study Country of Study Test Group Details Results
2008 Sidney Myopia Study Australia · 1,765 children were six.

· 2,367 children were 12.

· Children were selected at random from 51 school across children.

· Two year study.

Children who played outside more had less myopia after two years, regardless of other factors. Those who spent the most time indoors and did near work had the worst myopia.
2013 Taiwan · Children aged between 7 and 11.

· One year study.

· 371 participants.

After one year, children taking part in the school’s “recess outside the classroom” program had less myopia and slower progression.
2013 Denmark During winter time, myopia progression was much quicker than during summer time.
2011 American Academy of Ophthalmology · UK researchers presented eight studies.

· 10,400 children took part in it.

Outdoor time was found to have a significant effect on both development and progression of myopia. The exact activity children took part in outdoor was irrelevant, but spending time outside was hugely important.

Curbing Myopia in Children

It is not always possible to prevent myopia from happening, not in the least because we often don’t know what caused it. However, if you have reason to believe your child might become myopic, or if they already have nearsightedness and you want to stop it from getting worse, you must encourage them to spend time outside. This is, in effect, the eternal battle of the modern parent, with all of us knowing that we should encourage our children to stop staring at screens all day. It is even more important to put strategies in place to actually achieve this if you feel your child is at risk of becoming myopic. Of course, if you should see this as something positive – why not join them during their outdoor activities, bond as a family, and work on your own health as well?

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