What is myopia?
Myopia (also called near-sightedness) is visual defect that causes distant objects to appear blurred, while close objects can be seen clearly.
How common is it?
It is thought that myopia affects almost one in every three people in the UK and is becoming more common.
Does it get worse over time?
Myopia can start to develop as early as six years of age and gradually gets worse until the eye is fully-grown.
What causes myopia?
Myopia occurs when the eye grows slightly too long. It could run in families and has been linked to focussing on nearby objects such as books, computers and smart-screens (such as phones and tablets) for long periods during childhood.
Should we encourage our kids to stay off their devices?
Spending a lot of time focusing your eyes on nearby objects, such as reading, writing and possibly using smart screen devices (such phones and tablets) and computers can also increase your risk of developing short-sightedness. Excessive focus on nearby objects can also lead to dry, strained and red eyes due reduced blinking and greater evaporation (or loss) of tears from the eye.
An ‘everything in moderation’ approach is therefore generally recommended. Although children should be encouraged to read, they should also spend some time away from reading and computer games each day doing outdoor activities.
What are the signs your child may have myopia?
The following may be signs of myopia in your child:
- Needing to sit near the front of the class at school because they find it difficult to read the whiteboard
- Sitting close to the TV
- Complaining of headaches or tired eyes
- Regularly rubbing their eyes
How can we help prevent it from developing?
Ensuring your child regularly spends time playing outside may help to reduce their risk of developing myopia. Some long-term use eye drops available on prescription from your ophthalmologist have also been shown to reduce the risk of myopia progression in children.
Which groups of people are most susceptible to developing myopia?
Myopia rates have more than doubled across all ethnic groups in the last 50 years. However, among British children, south Asians were most susceptible to developing myopia, followed by African, Caribbean and then caucasian populations.
Are there any external ways we can help protect against it?
Although there are no scientifically proven external ways to help protect against or prevent myopia, it is usually corrected with corrective lenses such as spectacles or contact lenses.
What sort of natural remedies are there?
No natural remedies have shown to be effective in preventing or slowing down myopia. Spending more time outdoors can help reduce the risk of developing myopia. This may be related to light levels outdoors being much brighter than indoors. Both sport and relaxation outdoors appear to be beneficial in reducing the risk of myopia.