Many children aren’t aware they have a vision problem and will generally try to adapt, without knowing they could see better – as a parent, you’re the best person to help find the signs.
Myopia, or short-sightedness, is a very common eye condition in children that causes distant objects to appear blurred, while close objects can be seen clearly – and it’ a condition that’s reaching epidemic proportions. This isn’t surprising, especially as children nowadays are often glued to their iPads. Staring at those tiny screens can bring on an array of eye issues – one being myopia.
Myopia occurs because the eyeball is usually slightly longer than normal from front to back. Light rays which make up the images you see, focus in front of, rather than directly on the retina, the light-sensitive part of the eye. When this happens, objects at a distance seem blurry and unclear.
If your child can see close objects clearly but has trouble focusing on objects in the distance, like reading the board at school, there’s a good chance they may have developed myopia. It’s likely he or she will find it difficult to read signs, watch television or recognise their friends until they’re close up – so it’s important as a parent to look out for these signs.
It’s not clear exactly why myopia happens, but it’s known to run in families, so your child is more likely to develop it if you or your partner are also short-sighted or suffer from myopia.
Spending a lot of time focusing your eyes on nearby objects, such as reading, writing and using electronic devices (phones and tablets) and computers can also increase the risk of developing short-sightedness. In fact, research has found that spending time playing outside as a child may reduce your chances of developing myopia, and existing myopia may progress less quickly.
“Everything in moderation” is the best approach! Although children should be encouraged to read, they should also spend some time away from reading and computer games each day doing outdoor activities.
The good news is that if you catch the problem early enough it’s easily treatable with glasses or contact lenses. Depending on the degree of your child’s myopia, he or she may need to wear glasses or contact lenses all the time or only when they need to. Glasses offer the flexibility of being easily altered as your child’s eyes change. Without corrective lenses, children with myopia can suffer eyestrain and headaches that can lead to problems with education and reduce the fun they have while playing.