Childhood myopia has doubled since the 1970s, which is hugely alarming. Called by some a ‘myopia boom’, eye health professionals globally are working out what’s behind this seemingly unstoppable rise. Here we look at the causes, prevention methods and the new breakthrough treatments.

Myopia means being short-sighted. It’s a common eye condition that causes distant objects to appear blurred, whilst those close by can be seen clearly. Progressive myopia in children is usually caused by the eye growing too rapidly and the axial length of the eye increasing. While many people develop short sight in their early teens, at Louise Sloan Opticians, we sadly see more and more children develop myopia at a younger age each year. We know this can be a worry for parents, so we have put together some myopia facts and useful information for you.

Causes

Almost one in every five teenagers in the UK is myopic, with symptoms usually appearing between 6 to 13 years of age. And for these children, there is an increased risk of developing further visual impairments in adulthood. So, what factors are behind this 50% rise in childhood cases over the last fifty years?

  • Genetics: While short-sightedness can run in families, genetics alone can’t explain the recent childhood increase.
  • Screen time: We all know that intense and prolonged viewing on phones and devices impacts both childhood and adult vision – with blue light causing symptoms of glare strain. Our children are becoming reliant on screens for work and play. Shockingly, according to the NHS, children aged 5 to 16 spend an average of 6.3 hours a day in front of a screen! NHSGGC : Screen Time
  • Lack of natural light: Interestingly, another factor could come simply from the increased time modern-day children spend indoors generally, meaning they miss out on natural light intensity. Studies have shown that sunlight, or light outdoors, helps protect against myopia.

For more information about myopia, please check out the really informative blog by Dr Annegret Dahlmann-Noor, Director of Children’s Eye Services at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London: The dramatic rise of myopia in young people – HEPI

Prevention

The childhood we enjoyed is likely to have been very different from our own children’s – years ago we played football in the street and left for the park after breakfast and wouldn’t be seen again until teatime. ‘Screen time’ involved the whole family gathering around the TV to watch Blankety Blank, or hiding behind the sofa when Dr Who came on. Obviously, not everyone experienced these halcyon days in the same way, but in general, a child from the 70s would have had more exposure to sunlight and less exposure to the blue light of modern screens – two factors that we know impact myopia development. So as a preventative measure, ideally, we should aim for our children to spend less time indoors and on screens and more time outdoors.

Treatment

The good news is, at Louise Sloan Opticians, if you have a child with increasing myopia, we can prescribe high-quality myopia control lenses called Essilor Stellest lenses. These correct your child’s short-sightedness whilst also controlling their myopia progression.

Cosmetically the Stellest lens looks no different to a standard lens, so the child doesn’t feel conscious they are wearing anything different to their peers. Studies have shown that children adapt very well to wearing the Stellest lens. Plus,

  • We have a great range of children’s frames that the Stellest lens fits into, allowing them to choose the frame they like.
  • They are proven to control and slow down myopic progression by 67%.
  • After the first year, the eye growth in 9 out of 10 children wearing the Stellest lens was similar to or slower than in non-myopic children.

We can also provide ‘stay on’ sports glasses and even prescription swimming goggles to ensure your children’s leisure activities stay firmly on the menu. Do pop in to have a chat and see the ranges available.

We hope you have found this blog helpful. The best solution for limiting childhood myopia is encouraging our children to spend more time outside and scale back screen time. If you’d like more information about myopia and the treatments available, please do get in touch with one of our friendly optometrists, who’ll be delighted to advise you.

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