How To Protect Kids From Nearsightedness

Nearsightedness is on the rise. Rates of nearsightedness, or myopia, have increased over the past three decades, and it’s estimated that a third to half of Americans are nearsighted– a 66% percent increase according to the National Eye Institute. Nearsightedness generally affects school-aged children, and much like diabetes and obesity, its rapid increase has now deemed it an epidemic. In some East Asian countries, more than 90% of children are nearsighted by adulthood. What is more concerning is that 10% to 20% of Asian schoolchildren suffer from high myopia, putting them at a higher risk for retinal detachment, glaucoma and other eye disorders including blindness.

While many doctors don’t fully understand why nearsightedness is so widespread, some research still supports a genetic theory— children with two myopic parents have a higher myopic incident than children with none or one myopic parent. But the with rates rising so quickly in such a short period of time, more doctors are now focusing on environmental factors that may be triggering nearsightedness– the more prevalent ones being “close-work” and lack of outdoor activities.

The good news is your child’s nearsightedness can be easily corrected and there are a few preventative measures you can take to halt its progression, or perhaps prevent it from ever starting.

1. Finding the right doctor. Your doctor should be willing to discuss myopia prevention with you. If not, there are doctors specializing in myopia reduction that can provide with additional resources to help you understand the available treatment options for your child’s myopia.

2. Regular eye exams. Correcting poor visual acuity is very important in a child’s sight development. Children should begin routine eye exams at the age of 5, or when you detect squinting or frequent headaches. Children with prescription glasses or contacts should have an annual checkup to screen for vision changes.

3. More time outdoors. According to a report published in Ophthalmology, elementary-school-aged children who spend more time playing outdoors experienced less myopic shifts than children who prefer to stay indoors. Participating in outdoor activities can also limit the amount of time spent on close-work which has been linked to increased nearsightedness.

4. Healthy diet. Research has shown a direct correlation between a diet rich in nutrients and general eye health. While there are no studies linking diet and myopia, it’s still important to ensure your child is receiving all the necessary nutrients to protect against eye diseases that can have an adverse effect on their myopia.

5. Orthokeratology. This is a new technology that vision experts are hoping will stop -or at least slow down- the progression of myopia in children. These corneal reshaping contacts are specially designed to reshape the front surface of the eye while your child sleeps, resulting in clearer vision the following day.

For more information on myopia, please visit NEI.gov.