Childhood myopia usually lasts a lifetime. The development of the defect can and should be slowed, but it is important to detect it at an early stage. Find out when your child’s nearsightedness may be suspected and what treatment options are available.
It is estimated that by 2050, the problem of myopia may affect up to half of the population. As the child ages and grows, the defect usually worsens and stabilizes around age 20, when the eyeballs stop growing. Some children have a genetic predisposition to developing nearsightedness or congenital vision defects.
– If the patient has a genetic predisposition, myopia usually develops early and is high. We correct the defect with glasses, but we are not able to control its size due to the specific structure of collagen fibers in the walls of the eyeball. Figuratively speaking, the handle is too large, stretches, inflates, causing axial elongation, and therefore myopia arises – explains Dr. Wojciech Hautz, Physician, Head of the Ophthalmology Clinic at the Institute – “Monument to the Children’s Health Center” in Warsaw.
But there is also a second large group of patients, young and old – the so-called scholastic myopia associated with chronic adduction work.
– This is called adaptive myopia, associated with adaptive stress. The eye muscles and ciliary muscles are responsible for this, allowing accommodation, that is, far and near vision. Chronic tension of this muscle, lengthens the eyeball and develops myopia. A patient who works a lot closely, chronically strains this muscle, and the likelihood of developing myopia is high – adds Wojciech Hotz.
These defects can be largely prevented, but it is difficult nowadays. Because of the change in the way of life of children and teens and the constant connection to mobile devices, we have an epidemic of myopia all over the world. Excessive use of cell phones, being at home all the time instead of running is not good for children’s health. Even 100 or 200 years ago, school was the privilege of a narrow social group. To make matters worse, children have recently encountered distance learning, spending time at a computer screen, exposing their eyes to prolonged adaptive stress, which contributes to the development of myopia.
Today, children get their hands on digital devices very early on. Meanwhile, according to the guidelines of children’s associations, up to the age of two, they should not have a connection to the digital world at all! They keep the screens very close to their eyes in a very close range when the correct distance is 40-70cm. The important thing is the right screen brightness, contrast, and size, the higher the better — explains Dr. Anna Ambrosiak, ophthalmologist, director of research at the Świat Oka Ophthalmology Center.
How to prevent myopia
It can be avoided by relaxing the ciliary muscle by looking into the distance. Free time should not be spent in front of the computer or phone, but outside. Children should run, play football and ride a bike, in short: they should be physically active. I realize that it is very difficult to get kids out these days. It is enough to look at what is happening on public transport or in the waiting rooms of doctors – everyone has a nose in front of a cell phone. Even the little ones stare at the small screen – says Wojciech Hotz.
Dr. Ambroziak points out that children don’t take breaks while doing homework, for example, and in the meantime, every 20 minutes you should take a 20-second break and look away, more than 6 meters – preferably in sight.
– At school, each lesson should be conducted with a break to look into the distance and at least one lesson, not only PE, should take place in the open air, in natural light. Such preventive treatment does not require any expenditures from the Ministry of Health. You just need to know this – adds Ambroziac.
For the brain and eyes to develop properly, each child should spend at least two hours a day in natural light. Diet and proper vitamin D3 levels are also very important.
Symptoms of myopia in children
Sometimes a visually impaired child withdraws from his peers. Since he has difficulty reading and writing, he often refuses to read or write.
When a child sees poorly:
– He holds books close to his eyes,
Turns and rubs his eyes (while reading or watching TV),
He suffers from frequent headaches.
Turns his head, for example, when drawing.
He has difficulty recognizing colors,
– sees less in dark rooms,
– complains about “jumping letters”,
Has problems performing tasks related to maintaining balance or catching the ball (distance assessment, spatial orientation),
He has problems concentrating.
His eyesight problems are sometimes read as dyslexia and dysgraphia
Parents should be concerned about the many symptoms. However, more often than not, they do not notice them and time is lost. This is why a comprehensive examination is so important – computer research is not enough.
How often is an eye examination done in children?
Dr. Anna Maria Ambroziak emphasizes that in the case of myopia, the most important thing is prevention and examination of children from the age of one year every year. Optometry and ophthalmological examinations are necessary before going to school, preferably in the fourth year of life.
– The annual examination of the child is very important, it is necessary to detect all irregularities in the visual system and disturbances of vision with both eyes.
Laser vision correction is not for children
– We must do everything possible to stop the process of lengthening the eyeball, because adults in this case are at risk of many complications. Class -4, -6 myopia is a four times increased risk of cataracts, eight times the risk of glaucoma, and 120 times the disease of the macula, the most important part of the retina for vision, such a person is more than 20 times more likely than any Someone who is not visually impaired – to explain Anna Ambrosiak.
Parents should remember that myopia needs to be corrected. Adults, unless they have contraindications, can correct vision by laser, and these procedures are not carried out in children, because the eyes are constantly developing. But waiting until puberty with corrected vision is a big mistake. The child should see sharply, and therefore should use corrective glasses. In some cases, with high myopia, contact lenses are a very good alternative to glasses. They are best used by older children due to proper hygiene and strict use of lenses – you cannot sleep in them.
For young people, everyday lenses are best – there are no problems with storing them. It is very important because improper care and use of it can lead to serious complications, such as keratitis, which in turn can lead to an irreversible deterioration in visual acuity.
There are also orthopedic correcting lenses for night use. Their job is to change and flatten the curvature of the cornea to reduce myopia during the day. According to Wojciech Hautz, this method has many opponents, it is theirs.
– First of all, the effect is very short-lived, when we remove the orthodontic lens, myopia returns. Second, wearing contact lenses at night can lead to complications due to insufficient respiration of the cornea. You should breathe through the eyelid and the lens is a barrier to breathing. When using orthodontic lenses, changes in the cornea associated with hypoxia can be observed – says Wojciech Hotz.
Your eye doctor may also suggest the use of atropine at a low dose of 0.01 percent.
Put the drops before bedtime, one in each eye. They have to relax the ciliary muscles which allow accommodation. The concentration of atropine is very low, so with long-term use, it does not deteriorate vision, but causes the ciliary muscle to relax. As a result, myopia associated with tension in this muscle develops more slowly, the specialist explains.