August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. Our eye doctors at Austin Eye want you to understand myopia (nearsightedness) and why early treatment could help your children enjoy lifelong improved vision. Nearsightedness seems to be growing among the general population. It is estimated that by 2050, an estimated 50 percent of the world’s population will experience blurred distance vision.
What is Nearsightedness?
Nearsightedness means that your child can see fine details up close but things far away are blurry or distorted. Myopia is the most common refractive error found in children and develops as they get older. It occurs when the shape of your eye is too steep and is no longer round in shape, which causes distorted refraction (bending) of light entering the eye. Some children with myopia may have a pointed eye shape. In myopia, the eyeball is either too long or the cornea is abnormally curved, causing light entering the end to bend improperly and in turn causing images to focus in front of the retina.
Refractive errors are hereditary and may come from one parent with a dominant gene or two with recessive genes. A combination of your genes and environment can contribute to worsening myopia. Some researchers theorize the increase in myopic patients is caused by kids spending less time outdoors and more time in front of digital devices.
Symptoms of Nearsightedness
Children with myopia may experience ongoing headaches or nausea after reading. You may see your child holding objects and books close to their face to see clearly, or hanging their head close to the table to see what they’re writing. They may sit close to the television or squint to try to see objects far away.
The Benefits of Early Myopia Management
Corrective lenses, including prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses, are a standard solution for nearsightedness in children. However, myopia management focuses on halting or slowing the progression of nearsightedness to preserve your child’s eyesight long term.
Austin Eye offers myopia management for children with exciting new options, including:
- Atropine Eye Drops: These specialty eye drops target retina receptors to limit myopia progression and involve a low-concentrated pharmaceutical solution created at a compounded pharmacy. The eye drops are administered at night.
- Orthokeratology: Used at night, this corneal reshaping therapy is considered a gentle treatment for myopia progression. Rigid gas permeable contact lenses are positioned in your child’s eyes before they go to bed and are removed in the morning. The lenses temporarily alter the eyes’ curvature to correct myopia and preclude the need for corrective eyewear during the day.
- Multifocal Contact Lenses: These lenses were designed for presbyopic adults who experience blurry near vision due to age, but research shows multifocal contact lenses can slow myopia progression in children. They are worn during the day and removed at night.
Myopia management is an essential part of your child’s eye health, and these methods can reduce their lifelong dependence on glasses and contact lenses. Early myopia treatment may lead to better outcomes for surgical corrections, such as iLASIK, later in life. Severe myopia increases risks for retinal detachment, cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma. Reducing myopia early in life can lower the likelihood of these conditions and eye diseases.