Myopia also known as "short-sighted" has been referred to as a pandemic for a number of years. I had completely under estimated the impact of myopia until I attended a conference in Birmingham where Saoirse Mc Crann opened my eyes about the impact of myopia on my patients and myself (i'm a myope -2.75). There is a lot of research taking place through the NICER study with Dr Sara mc Cullough and Professor Kathyrn Saunders based in the University of ulster, Coleraine.
Who is affected by myopia?
Around a third of people in the UK are myopic. The condition usually starts in childhood (between six and 13 years of age) and tends to get worse until the eye has stopped growing. Myopia can also develop in younger children and adults. People are more likely to become myopic if their parents are also myopic.
What are the symptoms?
If your child is myopic, they will have problems seeing things in the distance clearly without glasses or contact lenses, but will be able to see things that are close to them. There are varying degrees of myopia.
How is myopia treated?
Myopia is usually easy to correct with glasses or contact lenses (or both). Some adults with myopia have laser surgery to correct it. There are some treatments that may slow down myopia during childhood. This is called myopia management.
How myopic may my child become?
The exact causes of myopia are not fully understood, so it is difficult to predict accurately how myopic any child may become in the future. Researchers know that the following things may make it more likely that a child will eventually become myopic:
• having one or both parents with myopia;
• being of east-Asian ethnic origin;
• spending limited time outdoors.
Becoming myopic before nine years old may increase the risk of developing a high level of myopia. If a person has a high level of myopia, they will be at a slightly greater risk of losing their sight later in life due to conditions such as retinal detachments, glaucoma and myopic retinal degeneration.
What are the options for myopia management?
There are two main treatments to try to reduce the progression of myopia:
• wearing glasses or special contact lenses; or
• using eye drops.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of myopia management?
• On average, myopia management may result in a 40% to 60% slowing of myopia progression.
• There may be a lower risk of myopia-related sight loss in adulthood.
• Some people’s vision may be marginally less clear during treatment.
• There is a risk of complications from wearing contact lenses.
• You have to pay for myopia management and it is more expensive than traditional glasses or contact lenses
• We don’t know if the long term benefits outweigh the costs and risks
Will my child still need to wear glasses or contact lenses after myopia management?
It is very likely that your child will still need to wear glasses or contact lenses even if the treatment to manage their myopia has been successful. However, they should have a lower level of myopia than they may have had without myopia management.
Will playing outdoors affect myopia in children?
An active lifestyle, particularly involving spending time outdoors, does appear to be helpful in preventing myopia.
Will using a screen affect myopia in children?
The length of time your child spends looking at a screen (like a tablet or phone), watching TV or reading doesn’t appear to affect how likely it is that your child will develop myopia or will have worse myopia. However, spending time on these activities might mean your child will spend less time outdoors, which we know can help prevent myopia.