Do you have concerns about your children’s eyesight? Perhaps they’re having trouble following classroom lessons. Maybe they’re finding it harder to enjoy their favorite TV shows or movies.

If so, you’re not alone. Around the world, there is mounting concern about the growing prevalence of nearsightedness — also called myopia.

Currently about 34% of world’s population is nearsighted, and a recent study published in the Ophthalmology journal predicts that by 2050, 4.8 billion people, or 49.8% of the world’s population, will be diagnosed with myopia, compared with only 2 billion (28.3%) in 2010.

What causes of myopia are behind this trend? What are the long-term risks to vision health for nearsighted people? And what can you do now to protect your children’s vision — and maybe your own?

What Is Myopia (Nearsightedness)?

Myopia — the formal name for nearsightedness or shortsightedness — is a refractive disorder in which the patient can see close up objects clearly, but distant objects appear blurred. It ranges from mild to severe and can interfere with driving, watching TV, or going to movies, concerts, or sporting events. For students, myopia can make it harder to participate in classroom activities.

The condition usually first appears between the ages of 8 and 12, although it can develop in adults. Once it occurs, nearsightedness typically progresses throughout the teen years until the age of 20. Most patients experience little change in vision between the ages of 20 and 40.

What Causes Myopia?

Many contributing factors have emerged as culprits in the development of nearsightedness.

Researchers are debating how much digital communication technologies have contributed to more people needing contacts, eyeglasses, and other treatments for correcting myopia.

Two studies — one published in the Ophthalmology journal, along with a separate study from Ulster University — pointed out that people of all ages, especially children, are heavy users of smartphones, tablets, and computers. The authors of these studies contend that the increase in “screen time” has contributed to the increase in nearsightedness across all regions of the world.

However, a third study from the College of Optometry at Ohio State University found no association between the amount of time children spent using screens and their likelihood of developing nearsightedness. The OSU study did, however, agree with the Ophthalmology report that too little time outdoors may also contribute.

Long Term Risk Factors of High Myopia

All forms of nearsightedness can increase the risk of more significant vision problems. High myopia, in particular, can lead to holes and tears in the retina, which can cause more severe eye problems.

How to Prevent and Control

Typically a prescription for contact lenses or glasses will increase as children grow, so the teen years are the perfect time to stop this progression from happening. In addition to traditional eyeglasses and contact lenses, a variety of options for myopia treatment are emerging.

Multifocal contact lenses used for myopia control help some patients by blurring out the periphery while maintaining a clear center view. With corneal reshaping, also called orthokeratology, or Ortho-K, some children with nearsighted vision can wear specially designed contact lenses at night to gently reshape the cornea at night. This changes how light is focused and can reduce the severity of myopia.

If you have questions about myopia in children — or in yourself — contact us for an appointment at Springfield Family Vision. Dr. Katie looks forward to helping you find the right vision solution for your needs.

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