Nearsightedness (also known as myopia) is one of the most common vision problems in childhood. In fact, about 9% of kids aged 5-17 years are nearsighted, according to the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health in the USA.
Kids with this condition can usually see things close up, but struggle to see things far away. It’s often diagnosed when they start school when they struggle to see the board in class.
But if you have begun to dread your child’s eye exams because you know you will be told the condition’s got worse and you will need a stronger prescription as there’s not much that can be done to slow down the deterioration, it’s time to dig deeper into other options.
According to Adrian Yssel, an optometrist and director at Dynamic Vision Optometrists who has specialised in treating nearsightedness for 10 years, you can control the deterioration of your child’s vision with new advanced technologies. You don’t have to accept that nothing can be done for your child.
Adrian says it’s important to know that the earlier one intervenes with nearsightedness in kids, the better their chances are of avoiding the risks of more serious eye conditions like cataracts, glaucoma and retinal detachment when they get older.
“With nearsightedness, it’s impossible to repair the damage that has already been done. There is no going back. Taking control early on to slow the progression offers the very best prognosis,” he says.
Why more kids are nearsighted today
He highlights that experts are seeing a big increase in the number of kids with this eye condition and are concerned about a “myopia pandemic”, fuelled by the vast amount of time kids are spending on near-vision tasks and being exacerbated by the COVID-19 lockdown.
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He says less time outdoors in natural light and more time indoors staring at computer screens and devices are impacting young, developing eyes. He adds that evidence also suggests that young children who sleep in very dark rooms are less likely to develop myopia than children that sleep with night lights or in bright rooms.
“Not only are we seeing more children with myopia, but the ages at which they are being diagnosed are lower than in the past,” he says. “This can be largely attributed to the very young age at which they start playing on smartphones and devices. This prolonged use of devices from a young age exposes their developing eyes to the long term, negative effects of the blue and purple light spectrum of light that is emitted from device screens. Older generations were never exposed to these high-energy levels of light while growing up,” he says.
So, what are the options for parents who want to stop their kids’ eyes from getting worse?
According to Adrian, there are 3 tried-and-tested ways to slow down the progression of nearsightedness in children:
- The first method, called Ortho Keratology, is backed by research and has the longest history of successfully reducing myopia progression in children with between 36-56%. It involves gently reshaping the front of the eye with a special contact lens that is worn while sleeping. Not all optometrists offer the treatment but you can be referred to other optometrists who have completed advanced courses in Ortho Keratology.
- The advanced, progressive soft contact lens which is prescribed for older patients who require reading prescriptions to see clearly at near distances can also be used to slow myopia progression in young children (off label).
- The third method involves using a well-known eye drop in a very diluted concentration just before going to sleep at night. “This method is well tested in Asian children, with less knowledge currently in our demographic population.”
He adds that by using specialised contact lenses in conjunction with the eye drops, it can help to reduce nearsightedness significantly.
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