Nearsightedness: A real children’s health concern.
Nearsightedness, aka “Myopia,” is a common vision condition diagnosed during a basic eye exam. For those who are nearsighted, objects that are farther away appear blurry. Myopia is caused by genetics, as well as other environmental factors. For instance, staring at any near object for too long can cause the eye to elongate — it’s this elongation that leads to myopia.
Myopia is a progressive condition and will continue to increase as we grow. On average, the amount myopia increases is about -0.37 diopters per year until we become fully grown, that almost two “clicks” worse each year. As we get bigger, the eye gets longer, and myopia increases. The implication is that a child in the third grade with low myopia will not be able to see the “big E” at the top of the eye chart by the time he or she finishes high school.
Myopia is on the rise in our modern world. In the span of one generation myopia has increased to 40% in the US. The side effects of progressive myopia has also been increasing.
Myopic progression occurs more in urban areas over rural areas. It also progresses faster in people who perform more near work tasks. One hypothesis is the cultural shift from more primitive agrarian lifestyles to our modern lifestyles has shifted our visual demand more towards near work. Myopia could be an unfortunate natural adaptation to these new and ever increasing near demands. Researcher’s aren’t really sure why, but the evidence suggests that sunlight seems to play an important role in preventing myopic shift. As modern society transitioned from tending fields to working in factories and offices, the myopia epidemic began.
Why it matters? The Consequence of Untreated Myopia.
An elongated eye does not necessarily have extra retinal tissue to cover its larger surface area. This means that as myopia progresses, the risk for sight threatening retinal holes, tears, and detachments increases. Myopia also tends to increase the risk for glaucoma and encourage cataracts to grow faster then normal. The goals of myopia control is to slow down of stop the rate of progression and minimize the risk for developing other myopia related problems. The earlier these interventions are started the more successful outcome we have. Once began, myopia control should be continue until adulthood. Although the mechanism of action is not well understood, there are three (3) clinically proven methods of effective myopia control.