More and more children are being diagnosed with myopia, or nearsightedness, every year. Many people are wondering why there has been such an increase in the number of children who are nearsighted. In addition, there’s a question as to what exactly causes nearsightedness in children and what the long term risks are in children who are diagnosed with severe cases of myopia.
What Causes Myopia?
One possible cause for myopia in children is genetics. If one or both parents have myopia, there is a possibility that their children will develop myopia. However, genetics isn’t the only culprit. Environmental factors also play a large role in myopia diagnoses.
According to studies that have been done, the amount of time spent indoors plays a large role in the development of myopia in children. The studies show that children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to be diagnosed with myopia, whereas children who spend the majority of their time indoors watching TV, playing video games, reading books, and other such indoor activities are more likely to be diagnosed with myopia. In fact, it has been determined that for every hour a child spends outdoors, their chances of developing myopia decreases by two percent.
The reasoning behind exactly why being outdoors more can possibly prevent myopia isn’t really understood, though many doctors and scientists believe it’s because when children are outdoors they focus more on objects that are more distant, whereas indoors things like the TV, books, and video games are usually fairly close to the children’s eyes.
However, it is also thought that the difference in indoor lighting versus outdoor lighting also plays a role in the myopia diagnoses. It’s said that the lighting outdoors is about 100 times more powerful than indoor lighting.
While the exact cause has yet to be specifically pinpointed, the consensus is that it’s a combination of genetics and various environmental factors that lead to children developing myopia. Basically, kids need to spend a little less time holed up inside and more time enjoying activities outside in natural light.
Why Have Myopia Diagnoses Increased?
Since around 1970, the number of children and adults diagnosed with myopia has significantly increased. Studies show that back in 1970, 25 percent of people ages 12 to 54 had myopia. That number had risen to over 42 percent as of the year 2009 and has since continued to rise, although a more recent percentage could not be determined. The reason behind the increase is, again, possibly linked to the fact that kids, and even adults, are spending more time indoors now and in the last couple of decades than they ever used to.
Long Term Risks of Myopia
Children and adults who have myopia of less than 6.00D will usually not face any additional risks associated with myopia because their vision can be corrected properly with eye glasses or contact lenses. However, those with myopia of more than 6.00D have a higher chance of retinal detachment, glaucoma, and cataracts at an earlier age than normal.
How to Tell if Your Child Has Myopia
Sometimes, even if their vision is blurry, kids may not realize that there is a problem with their eyesight, so oftentimes the only way to know if your child is having vision problems is to take them for an eye exam. However, if your child has myopia and it has not yet been diagnosed, he or she may experience a number of symptoms such as eyestrain, headaches, or fatigue when they have to look at something in the distance. If your child complains of any of these things, you should take them to have their eyes checked as soon as possible.
Treatment for Myopia in Children
If it is determined that your child has myopia, their eye doctor will prescribe eye glasses or contacts for them. Contacts will only be prescribed if you request them or if your child is old enough to take care of them on their own, such as in the teen years.
Preventing Myopia at an Early Age
Since genetics plays a role in myopia, it isn’t entirely possibly to prevent it from developing. However, there are things you can do to lower the chances of myopia occurring. Be sure to take your children to have regular eye exams so if they do have myopia it can be detected and treated early on before it begins to cause further problems for your child. You should especially keep up with the regular eye exams if myopia is a common condition in your family.
Encourage your children to spend more time playing outdoors. Although the exact reasons why being outdoors lessens myopia occurrences haven’t been pinpointed, it has been proven that the more time your child spends inside, the higher the chance is they will develop myopia. If you have to ban electronic devices from your house to get your kids to go outside, then do so because it will be worth it if it means they won’t have to wear corrective lenses for the rest of their lives. Besides, the fresh air will do them some good too.
Also, be sure to incorporate eye healthy foods into their diets. There are many foods, like carrots, spinach, and kiwi that you can include in their meals. Plus, you can have them take vitamins that contain eye healthy nutrients.