Understanding Myopia in Kids

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November 20, 2023

As our children’s world becomes more digital and less outdoor-centric, it inevitably raises questions about their well-being. From playing video games to engaging in online learning, scrolling through social media, texting, and spending extended periods on computers — this trend has ushered in a new era of eye health concerns. One of which is the growing prevalence of myopia in kids, commonly known as nearsightedness.

What Causes Myopia in Kids?

In the simplest terms, myopia is caused when the eyeball is a bit too long or the cornea is too curved. Because of this — when light enters the eye — the focal point doesn’t land directly on the retina as it should. Instead, it focuses in front of the retina, making far-away things appear blurry.

There are some common causes for the development of myopia in a child. Do note that myopia is a complex condition influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Genetics. Myopia tends to run in families. If one or both parents are nearsighted, the risk of their kids developing myopia is higher.

Excessive near work. Engaging in activities that require close-up focus for extended periods, such as reading, using digital devices, or doing detailed work can contribute to myopia development.

Limited outdoor time. Spending more time indoors and less time in natural outdoor light has been associated with a higher risk of myopia, particularly in kids.

Environmental factors. Factors such as urbanization and increased screen time have been linked to the rising prevalence of myopia in kids today.

Prolonged screen time. Excessive screen time especially at a young age may contribute to the development of myopia. This is sometimes referred to as “screen-induced myopia.”

Lack of sunlight. Insufficient exposure to natural sunlight — which provides essential nutrients for eye health — can also be a contributing factor.

Symptoms of Myopia in Kids

Detecting symptoms of myopia in a child can sometimes be challenging because they might not realize their vision is different from what it should be. Parents play a vital role in identifying potential signs of myopia, as early detection can make a significant difference in managing the condition effectively. Below, we’ve compiled a list of common symptoms that may indicate a child is experiencing myopia.

Squinting. Children with myopia often squint their eyes in an attempt to see distant objects clearly.

Sitting close. They may sit very close to the TV or the front of the classroom from the difficulty of seeing what’s written on the board.

Frequent eye rubbing. Children with myopia may rub their eyes frequently, especially after doing close-up tasks.

Complaints of blurriness. If a child frequently complains that things in the distance are blurry or unclear, it could also be a sign of myopia.

Frequent headaches or eye strain. Struggling to see clearly can lead to headaches or eye discomfort, which the child might mention.

Narrowed field of vision. They might tilt their head or look out of the corners of their eyes to see better, which can appear as a narrowed field of vision.

Simple Tests to Diagnose Myopia in Kids

Fortunately, the process of diagnosing myopia is straightforward, typically painless, and eye check up for kids are easily accessible. We have listed several simple steps eye care professionals use to diagnose myopia, ensuring your kids have the right prescription.

  1. Visual acuity test. This is the classic eye chart test where your kids read letters from a distance. If they struggle to see the smaller letters clearly, it can indicate myopia.
  2. Retinoscopy. The eye doctor uses a special flashlight and lenses to check how light reflects off the retina to help them figure out your kid’s eyeglass prescription.
  3. Autorefractors and aberrometers. These are fancy machines that give a quick estimate of the eyeglass prescriptions. Your kids will only need to look into the machine, and it does all the work.
  4. Subjective refraction. This is like a trial-and-error test. The doctor flips lenses in front of your kid’s eyes and tells them which ones make things look clearer.
  5. Eye health examination. The doctor will check their eyes’ health using various tools and techniques to look for any other eye issues that might be related to myopia.

Treatment Options for Myopia in Kids

Even though this condition can’t be permanently reversed or cured, it often can be effectively managed with various non-surgical myopia treatment options. Here, we outline some of the most common and effective methods for addressing myopia.

  1. Prescription glasses. These glasses have lenses that correct the refractive error in the eye, allowing distant objects to come into focus.
  2. Contact lenses. Contact lenses are an alternative to eyeglasses and are available in various types, including soft, rigid gas permeable, and specialty lenses.
  3. Orthokeratology (Ortho-K). These lenses temporarily reshape the cornea — worn overnight — allowing for clearer vision during the day without the need for glasses or contacts.
  4. Atropine eye drops. Low-dose atropine eye drops are administered once daily to slow the progression of myopia in children.
  5. Vision therapy. This is a specialized program of eye exercises and activities that can help improve eye coordination and focus, which may be beneficial for individuals with myopia.
  6. Refractive surgery. In some cases, individuals with stable myopia may choose to undergo refractive surgery, such as LASIK or ICL, to permanently correct their vision.

Preventive Measures for Myopia in Kids

To prevent myopia or slow its progression, encourage outdoor activities and limit excessive screen time on your kids. While implementing the “20-20-20” rule will help reduce eye strain. And particularly for children with a family history of myopia, getting regular eye exams allows for early detection and intervention. These measures collectively contribute to maintaining better eye health and reducing the risk of myopia progression.

Final Say

Although myopia in kids is a growing concern, its impact can be minimized with proactive measures and timely intervention. If you’ve noticed symptoms like squinting, sitting too close to screens, or frequent eye rubbing in your child, schedule an eye examination at VISTA Eye Specialist. As a reputable eye specialist in Malaysia with pediatric eye care, we provide a child-friendly environment and expert guidance to address myopia effectively.

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