Myopia, commonly called shortsightedness, is a condition in which light is focused in front of the retina due to the eyes becoming larger, resulting in blurred vision. Shortsighted people can often see reasonably clearly at short distances, but will not be able to see distant objects clearly.
There is currently no cure for myopia, but spectacles, contact lenses and refractive surgery can all provide good distance vision for people with myopia.
Shortsighted people have difficulty in seeing distant objects clearly. They find it hard to read road signs and scoreboards and to play ball games. Recognizing people in the distance may be a problem for many shortsighted people. Often a person will not realize that they cannot see clearly but an eye examination by an optometrist will reveal the problem.
A complete eye test is the only sure way of determining whether your child’s vision is normal. Some clues to myopia in a child are:
- screwing up eyes to see distant objects;
- difficulty reading the blackboard at school;
- poor posture while reading; and
- lack of interest in playing outdoor games.
Research shows the modern lifestyle plays a role! Kids who spend more time on close work (such as reading, i-pads, computer games) and less time outside are more likely to become myopic. Genetics also plays a role – kids with one short sighted parent are 30% more likely to become myopic, this jumps to 60% if both parents are shortsighted.
Luckily, research is showing there are strategies to slow or prevent the progression of myopia. What is the risk of my child’s Myopia increasing?
Despite ongoing research, a cure for myopia has not yet been found. Properly prescribed spectacles or contact lenses will enable a person with myopia to see clearly. Laser surgery to reshape the front surface of the eye can also help some people with myopia. Your optometrist can advise you about the latest developments and whether they would be suitable for you.
Children can start becoming myopic from as young as five or six years of age. Conventional spectacle lenses and contact lenses do not have any effect on the progression of Myopia however, there is now good evidence to indicate that myopia progression can be slowed and reduced significantly by the use of specialized spectacle and contact lens designs as well as the use of certain pharmaceutical drops. (See our page on Myopia Control for more information)
It is a very common condition.
Myopia is becoming more common in children, with the prevalence among Australian 12 year olds doubling in 6 years. About 20-25 per cent of the Australian population is shortsighted. In some Asian countries it is as high as 80-90 percent. Usually myopia begins to develop in childhood and may progress over the following years. Unfortunately, myopic changes are permanent (the eye can’t shrink!) and in turn can increase the life-time risk of sight-threatening conditions such as glaucoma, retinal detachment, cataracts and myopic macular degeneration.