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What is myopia?

Myopia is a common condition that tends to begin in childhood or teenage years, where the eyeball is longer than normal and prevents a child from seeing well at a distance. Objects that are near are clear, but distant objects appear blurred. This can make distance tasks more difficult, including seeing the board at school, playing sports, and watching TV.

Why does my child have myopia?

There are many factors that can lead to myopia. While myopia is largely hereditary there can be genetic variations between parent and child. As with most medical conditions the environment can also play a role in myopia progression. Research currently suggests that myopia is multifactorial and is largely associated with family history, environmental, and/or behavioural factors such as reduced time outdoors and increased time indoors.

Vision appointment

Does screen time or electronic devices cause myopia?

There have not yet been any clinical trials looking specifically at the effect of electronic devices on myopia. What we do know is that increased amounts of time indoors, and reduced time spent outdoors is associated with myopia.

Does myopia get worse?

As a child grows, the eyes grow as well and myopia will often get worse until the person stops growing around 25 years old. Therefore, the younger the child develops myopia the chances of developing high myopia increases. When the myopia reaches this level, the eye is too long and stretched, and the risk of developing potentially sight-threatening complications increases exponentially into adulthood. The sight-threatening complications include but are not limited to:

  • Retinal detachment where the retina detaches from the eye.
  • Myopic macular degeneration leads to degeneration of the macula (the area of the eye responsible for your central vision).
  • Glaucoma leads to degeneration of the optic nerve which is responsible for transmitting signals from the eye to the brain
  • Cataract the lens in the eye responsible for focussing the image becomes cloudy.
A child getting her eyes checked

What can be done about it?

Recent research has shown that we can safely and effectively slow the increase in myopia amongst children. These treatments include:

Eye check up

Dual focus/multifocal soft contact lenses (soft lenses worn during the daytime)

Orthokeratology lenses (rigid gas permeable lenses worn overnight)

Low dose atropine, a therapeutic eye drop used nightly

These treatments will not stop the myopia from increasing (as the eye of a child still needs to grow naturally), but will slow the increase in myopia. The average effect of treatment has been shown to be ~ 50% in many studies, however some children will progress more or less than this. It is possible that the strategy used in your child’s eyes, will not slow the rate of progression and another treatment may need to be added.

Slowing myopia is important as high levels of myopia can increase the risk of future sightthreatening complication(s). Its prevalence and severity are dramatically increasing worldwide. Preventing higher myopia will also mean that your child will have reduced dependence on corrective lenses, having to wear thick, heavy glasses, and reduce cosmesis.