Myopia is a common eye health condition seen in children which causes blurred distance vision (short-sightedness). JAGRUT LALLU, New Zealand Optometrist and founding member of the Australia and New Zealand Child Myopia Working Group, discusses what parents should look out for.
Myopia is not just an inconvenience. It is often a progressive condition and, in most cases of myopia in children, involves excessive eye elongation, leading to stretching and thinning of the tissues within the eye. Although lifetime risks of developing several serious eye conditions increase significantly with higher degrees of myopia, no level is safe.
The early warning signs to look out for at home or at school
The first symptom of myopia to be aware of is if your child has difficulty reading road signs and seeing distant objects clearly, although they would be able to see well for close-up tasks such as reading and computer use.
If a child is myopic, they will often shy away from activities, sitting more closely to things they wish to see. Many myopic patients develop skills in other areas which avoid it being picked up. Some sit at the front of the class, copy another student’s work or develop very good audio memories to cope with blurry vision.
It is good also to be aware of what signs may show themselves in the classroom and to discuss with the teacher if you have any concerns. They are:
- Sitting – is your child sitting closer to the front of the class?
- Squinting – is your child squinting to see further away?
- Schoolwork – is your child’s schoolwork performance declining?
Creating a healthy eye environment
- More green time, less screen time – get kids outdoors.
- Build in regular breaks from devices at home – every 20 minutes, remind your child to have a break for at least twenty seconds and look out a window to something at least six metres away.
- Regular eye examinations with a local optometrist.
Discuss myopia management options
As research and technological innovations in this area continue, optometrists now have an impressive arsenal of new management options, which mean they can not only provide clear vision but slow down the progression of myopia.
This makes it crucial for children to have a full eye examination with an optometrist before starting school and then regular visits as they progress through primary and secondary school as part of their general health regime.
When you go to a local optometrist, ask them about the latest research on myopia and the management options best suited to your child.