With increasing rates of progression, it is expected that by 2050, it is expected that 50% of the world’s population will be affected – this includes approximately 10% of people having the severe form. With over 80 million reported myopic children worldwide there are considerable socio economic and public health concerns.
This trend is a critical issue because the earlier a child gets myopia, the more severe it can become.
Currently a substantial amount of research has been done to determine the etiology of myopia, the risk factors associated with myopia, techniques to prevent myopia and ways to treat myopia.
What is child myopia?
Myopia is a type of refractive error and occurs because the shape of the eyeball causes light rays to focus in front of the retina, rather than on it.
The result is blurry, out-of-focus distance vision. On average, eyes that have myopia are larger and longer than those without it. Child myopia specifically refers to myopia in someone under the age of 18, i.e. during school-age – this is why it’s sometimes also called ‘school myopia’. Child myopia is most commonly diagnosed in childhood. The following simulator can give insight into how your child is currently seeing https://coopervision.com/myopia-simulator
As childhood myopia worsens, the eye is growing at an accelerated rate. The eyes are meant to grow in childhood, at a regular rate up until age 10-12. However if they grow too quickly or don’t stop at age 10-12, then a child becomes myopic. This excessive growth of the eye stretches the retina – the light sensitive layer lining the back of the eye – and the stretching increases risk of eye diseases and vision impairment occurring across your child’s lifetime.
A myopic eye is longer, or more stretched, than a normally sighted eye due to excessive eye growth.
A normal eye length is 22 to 24mm. When the eye grows to longer than 26mm, the risk of your child suffering vision impairment in their lifetime is 25%. If the eye grows to more than 30mm, which can occur in very high myopia, the risk skyrockets to 90%.
The milder forms of myopia do not typically pose a significant risk to your child long-term. However, the condition is often progressive, meaning that it becomes worse over time as the eye grows and changes. This includes during puberty when rapid bodily development occurs. The most severe form is known as high myopia.
High myopia is associated with a higher risk of developing serious eye conditions later in life, including retinal detachment, glaucoma, cataracts and myopic macular degeneration.
Myopia control is about slowing down this excessive eye growth, ideally to the normal rate expected in childhood. Even at levels of myopia traditionally thought of as quite ‘low’, there are increased risks of eye diseases compared to someone who is not myopic – see the table below.
What factors contribute to child myopia?
o Children who have near-sighted parents have a several-fold higher risk of being affected themselves
o Children living in urbanized environments
o Higher in some ethnicities, especially East-Asian population
o Lifestyle factors
o inadequate time spent outdoors
o lack of exposure to natural sunlight
Essentially every child is potentially at risk of developing myopia
Can child myopia be reversed?
Child myopia is irreversible, but treatments are available that can restore distance vision, such as glasses or contact lenses.
However, these do not stop myopia from becoming worse.
Vision correction surgery (e.g. laser eye surgery) is generally not recommended in children, because their eyes continue to develop into early adulthood. Your child’s eyes will generally stabilize after the age of 18, at which time laser eye surgery may be considered for vision correction. Although vision correction surgery may remove the need for corrective glasses or contact lenses, the risk of developing sight-threatening complications remains lifelong.
What can be done to slow down myopia?
It’s important to note that there’s nothing currently available that can promise to STOP myopia progression. The current research and available options can work to SLOW DOWN myopia progression by about a third to a half on average, depending on the option selected and your child’s individual factors.