SHORT SIGHT: How can you help your child
Short sight or myopia is a condition of eyes in which one has defective vision for distance. This happens because the rays of light which should focus on retina focus in front of it, leading to blurring of vision.
What causes myopia?
The onset and progression of myopia can be attributed to both environmental and genetic factors. However, environmental factors seem to play a larger role in the rapid increase in the prevalence of myopia. A heavily indoor and near-activity based lifestyle, with less time outdoors, combined with the intense education commencing at very young ages, as occurring in many East Asian countries, are major contributing factors.
How can you prevent rapid progression of myopia?
- Studies have shown that children with low outdoor time and high near work were two to three times more likely to be myopic compared to those performing low near work and high outdoor activities. Two hours of outdoor activity in daylight is recommended by ophthalmologists for prevention of rapid progression of myopia.
- In this era of smart phones and tabs it is very important to understand that these devices can harm the vision of our children. Ophthalmologists recommend no screen time for very young children, and screen time less than half an hour per day for older children. We recommend parents to place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviours essential to good health.
- Myopic children should be under regular follow up with ophthalmologists. If required the doctor can advise them low concentration atropine eye drops (0.01%) which are proven to reduce the rate of progression of myopia. Moreover, regular retinal check-up is required for myopic children as they can be predisposed to certain sight threatening retinal problems.
Treatment of Myopia
Spectacles: though they do not eliminate the disease, spectacles are very important to help the child see clearly. As the eye-brain connections are still developing in young children, it is very important for them to have clear vision.
Contact lenses: Can be a substitute for spectacles in older children who can take the required precautions for their use.
Refractive surgeries: Once the refractive error stabilizes i.e. usually after 18 years of age, one can undergo refractive surgery and stop using glasses.