What Parents Need to Know About Nearsightedness Prevention for Children

Nearsightedness (Myopia) among children has been rapidly increasing for decades, yet the risks and treatment are widely misunderstood by parents and caregivers. Prevention and early detection are two keys to controlling this epidemic impacting children’s vision, development and classroom learning.

What is nearsightedness?

Nearsightedness, also known as myopia, is a vision condition that impacts a child’s ability to see objects at a distance because the shape of the eyeball is too long, or the cornea is too curved. Nearsightedness is not an eye disease, but an imperfection in the eye known as a refractive error. The condition typically begins in childhood and often progresses over time as the child grows. Roughly, 41% of Americans are nearsighted as opposed to 25% in 1971.1 This upward trend exists throughout Colorado and across the world.

Early Detection and Slowing Progression

Doctors of optometry agree that the best way to slow myopia progression and possibly prevent it includes a combination of:

  1. Consistent comprehensive eye exams for children even without symptoms. Children should have their eyes examined by an eye doctor to get a full look at their eye health at 12 months, 3 years, 5 years of age and then every year for low-risk kids. These regular exams give your child the best chance at early detection and treatment to slow or correct nearsightedness.
  2. Daily time outdoors has been shown to delay the onset of myopia.
  3. Minimize screen time as this has been linked to increase in progression.
  4. If one or both parents are nearsighted their child is at higher risk, making it not possible to prevent, but the progression of the condition can often be slowed with proper detection and treatment.

Symptoms

Below are common symptoms for children experiencing nearsightedness. Keep in mind that many children don’t complain of symptoms and aren’t aware they are having a visual challenge. This makes a comprehensive eye exam key for early detection.

  • Blurry vision when trying to focus on distant objects.
  • Squinting to read far away text.
  • Sitting close to the TV or holding screens, books or objects close to the face.
  • Regular headaches.

Risks of Untreated Nearsightedness

It is important for caregivers to understand that children with moderate nearsightedness are at risk for additional serious eye conditions as adults. Such as:

  • Glaucoma
  • Retinal Detachment
  • Macular Degeneration

Treatment

Once nearsightedness begins it cannot be reversed, but it can be slowed. The child’s distance vision should be fully corrected with glasses and/or contacts. Additional treatments to slow progression can include:

Prescribed eye drops
These drops are administered daily to slow progression of myopia.

Corneal Refractive Therapy (CRT)
Used in children and adults, CRT uses contact lenses that are worn only at night to reshape the cornea during sleep. No lenses or minimal correction is worn during the day. It takes about 2 weeks get the full effect and they need to be work every night.

Multifocal contact lenses
These unique contact lenses have different prescriptions in different locations of the lens. Often these are daily disposable contact lenses that children learn quickly to insert and remove.

References

1 https://www.nei.nih.gov/about/news-and-events/news/myopia-close-look-efforts-turn-back-growing-problem#:~:text=As%20a%20result%2C%20people%20with,from%2025%20percent%20in%201971.

Vision Changes at 41-55 Years of Age

Did you know that your vision has been gradually changing since childhood? It’s true! These subtle changes occur for everyone, even for individuals who have never needed assistance from glasses or contacts. Over the course of your life, the lens in your eyes begins to stiffen and slowly begins to lose its ability to change focus from near to far.

Trouble Focusing Up Close (Presbyopia)
After age 40, these gradual vision changes often begin to manifest as having difficulty quickly changing focus. For example, you may notice transient blur at distance after you have been doing a lot of near work. This is called Presbyopia, which will continue to advance through your early 50’s when near vision changes should then stop. 

Presbyopia is not curable or preventable and it occurs for everyone. Your local optometrist can assist in correcting your vision with eyeglasses or contact lenses so that you can maintain your quality of life.

Symptoms of Presbyopia
These symptoms may occur gradually with the first signs showing after age 40:

  • Hold reading material further away to make letters clearer
  • Needing brighter lighting when reading
  • Squinting
  • Blurred vision at normal reading distance
  • Eyestrain/ headaches after a task requiring near vision like reading
  • Slow transition from near to far viewing or vice versa

Risk Factors
Age is the greatest factor for developing presbyopia. Almost everyone experiences symptoms of presbyopia after age 40 to some degree.

Premature Presbyopia Risk Factors
Specific diseases like diabetes, anemia, eye trauma, multiple sclerosis or cardiovascular diseases can increase your risk of premature presbyopia, which is presbyopia in people younger than 40. Some drugs are associated with premature presbyopia symptoms, including; alcohol, anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressant, antihistamines, antipsychotics, antispasmodics, and diuretics.1

When to See an Optometrist
If blurry close-up vision is interfering with your day-to-day tasks or quality of life, it is recommended that you get a comprehensive eye exam with your optometrist right away.

Seek immediate medical care if you experience:

  • Sudden loss of vision in one eye with or without eye pain
  • Sudden hazy or blurred vision
  • Flashes of light, black spots or halos around lights
  • Double vision

1https://www.healthline.com/health/presbyopia#risk-factors

 

A Parent’s Guide to Children’s Vision: Ages 0-5

Does my child need an eye exam? Many parents are unaware that by age 5, a child should have completed three eye exams with an eye doctor. Vision screenings with a pediatrician are part of an essential health plan, but to get a complete look at how your child’s visual system is developing they need comprehensive eye exams with an eye doctor as they approach classroom learning.

“Three eye exams by age 5 are essential for early detection of treatable eye conditions like amblyopia, eye turns, clinically significant far-sightedness, and total refractive errors. These specific eye conditions can develop prior to age 5 and they have potential to hinder classroom readiness and learning as the child enters grade school. An eye doctor can get a complete look at your child’s eye health to make sure everything is developing appropriately for school success. It’s really about making sure each child can learn without difficulty from the visual system,” explains Sheryl Benjamin, Executive Director at the Colorado Optometric Association.

Recommended Comprehensive Eye Exam Schedule for Ages 0-5:

  • 6-12 Months | Comprehensive Eye Exam by Eye Doctor
  • 3 Years | Comprehensive Eye Exam by Eye Doctor
  • 5 Years | Comprehensive Eye Exam by Eye Doctor

One study by the National Eye Institute found that vision screenings miss detecting one-third of children with an eye or vision disorder. Luckily, Colorado infants, ages 6-12 months, are eligible for a no cost comprehensive eye exam with a participating InfantSEE optometrist. InfantSEE is a nationwide public health program offering early detection of potential eye and vision problems at no cost, regardless of income. Find an InfantSEE doctor today!

What to Expect at a Pediatric Comprehensive Eye Exam


Comprehensive Eye Exams for 6-12 months

It’s recommended that this eye exam takes place around the infant’s schedule picking a time when the infant is content and not fatigued. Infants usually find this exam painless and fun.

First, the caregiver will be asked to give a family history since many eye challenges are hereditary. At this age, the infant usually sits in the caregiver’s lap during the exam while the doctor engages the infant in testing. The optometrist will use handheld objects like lights and toys to check that the eyes are working properly together. The doctor may use drops or a spray to dilate the pupils and get a better look into the health of the eyes. Additional tests will be performed to look for nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and any risk factors will be identified. The optometrist will then recommend when to schedule the next eye exam (usually at age 3 unless the infant is high risk).

Comprehensive Eye Exams for Ages 3-5
Children at this age do not need to know their letters or numbers to fully participate in the eye exam and it’s okay if they are too shy to verbalize. During this exam the optometrist will be assessing vision acuity and eye teaming while looking for clouding of the lens, refractive error, nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, lazy eye, misalignment, convergence insufficiency, focusing problems, poor depth perception, color blindness, and additional eye health issues.

Tell your eye doctor if your child has/had any of the following issues:

  • Born premature
  • Delayed motor development
  • Repeated eye rubbing
  • Excessive blinking
  • Fails to maintain eye contact
  • Poor eye tracking

Find a Local Optometrist Today!

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