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Posted on 02-20-2018

Does it seem like more children are wearing eyeglasses?  In the early 1970s, only about 25 percent of Americans were nearsighted but by 2004, myopia prevalence in the United States had grown to nearly 42 percent of the population.  So, if you think more people are wearing eyeglasses, you are correct.  Many parents are concerned about this trend.  I cannot tell you how many times a parent has asked, “Doc, what can I do to stop my kid’s eyes from getting worse”?  Or “Is my child going to go blind”?  We live in an era of computers, hand-held devices, cell phones and less outdoor play.  This all adds up more stress to the visual system.  If we lived in a perfect world, the perfect time to address your kid’s need for eyeglasses would be before a problem is noticed.  Yes, there is some merit to giving more children a pair of “relaxing lenses” while they are on their iPads, computers and reading.  However, this is rarely discussed so let’s move onto reality.  There are somethings that a child can do to alleviate visual stress.  For example, after reading a couple of pages, look at something faraway for 10 seconds, increase outdoor time, exercise and a sound nutrition plan.  So exactly what is myopia, and can it be changed?

WHAT IS MYOPIA (my-O-pee-ah) or Nearsightedness    

The medical term for nearsightedness is myopia.  When you are nearsighted, your distance vision is blurred.  Close range vision is generally clear at some near distance without glasses, thus the term "nearsighted."  High myopia puts you at risk for cataracts, glaucoma and retinal detachments.  Hence, the reason, myopia control is being stressed.

Genetic, environmental or functional factors can play a role in the development of nearsightedness.  There are times when myopia can be slowed, if caught early enough.  Therefore, you may want to consider the following options.

Your options are:

  1. Do nothing, wait and see how your child changes over the next 6-12 months.  If the eyeglass prescription keeps getting worse then come up with a plan after talking with your optometrist.
  2. Corneal refractive therapy (CRT) contact lenses, also called ortho K lenses.  You can sleep in these lenses and remove them upon awakening.  You can see clearly during the day without any contact lenses or eyeglasses.
  3. Bifocal eyeglasses and special medical eyedrops to be used a night.  This is especially good for very young children.

Don’t forget to limit screen time as much as possible and take 15-minute breaks.  I do not think that any amount of education and/or visual training is going to compete with schools that do the majority of education on iPads and families that do the majority of recreation on screens.  So, our best defense is to consider the options listed above.

Carla D. Adams, OD, FCOVD

Board Certified in Neuro-Visual Rehabilitative/Vision Therapy and Vision Development

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