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What You Should Know About Myopia in Children

Myopia, better known as nearsightedness, affects over 40 percent of the U.S. population. Children make up a significant part of this statistic. In school-aged children, the number of myopia cases has grown rapidly. Untreated myopia can negatively impact a child's safety, sports acuity, and academic performance.

If you worry about the state of your child's eyesight, you can benefit from learning about myopia in children, why it occurs and how to compensate for it, and state-of-the-art treatments that can slow its progression. Here are some key factors to keep in mind regarding pediatric myopia.

How Myopia Affects Children's Vision

Myopia belongs to a class of vision problems known as refractive errors. Normally, the eye's spherical shape allows incoming light to come into perfect focus when it strikes the back of the eye. In myopia sufferers, however, an elongated eye causes the light to reach its focal point prematurely. As a result, distant objects appear blurry.

Children with myopia may have trouble with tasks that require sharp distance vision, including many sports. They may also struggle in school, straining to read blackboards at the front of the classroom. Physical symptoms of myopia may include fatigue, eye irritation, chronic headaches, and squinting.

How Pediatric Optometrists Diagnose and Measure Myopia

Pediatric eye exams can alert an experienced optometrist to potential myopia. Refractive testing instruments can reveal irregularities in how the eyes refract light. The optometrist can also use an eye chart (which may contain either letters or shapes, depending on the patient's age) to diagnose myopia.

Once the optometrist has detected myopia, further vision testing can reveal the precise nature and extent of the disorder. A viewing device called a phoropter contains multiple lenses of varying magnification. The optometrist has your child read the eye chart through this device to find the child's corrective prescription.

How to Choose Corrective Lenses for Your Nearsighted Child

When selecting a pair of eyeglasses for your child, make sure that the frames will fit comfortably and correctly, and that color and style appeal sufficiently for the child to wear the glasses as instructed. Choose shatter-resistant polycarbonate lenses and (if necessary) separate sports goggles for high-impact safety.

Older children can also use contact lenses to correct their myopia-related vision issues. Since contacts can cause infection and other problems without proper handling, storage, and cleaning, the FDA generally advises parents to wait until their kids have reached the age of 12 or older before switching them from glasses to contacts,

Above and beyond the issue of chronological age, you must determine that your child has the necessary maturity to wear contact lenses effectively. For instance, while contact lenses make good sense for sports activities, they can also get lost relatively easily on a grassy playing field or in a crowded locker room.

How to Minimize Your Child's Myopia Development

Most of the eye elongation associated with myopia develops during childhood. As the elongation progresses, vision issues get increasingly worse. Extreme myopia (also called high myopia) can even increase long-term risks for cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal detachment.

Thankfully, treatment exists to curb myopia progression during childhood, thus optimizing visual acuity and minimizing complication risks in adulthood. One common technique involves the use of atropine eye drops. Atropine, which temporarily alters pupil function, can slow the progression of myopia by 77 percent.

Orthokeratology (ortho-k) lenses can also dramatically reduce myopia progression in children. These contact lenses temporarily reshape the corneas as the wearer sleeps. The wearer then removes the lenses on awakening to enjoy clear daytime vision. Regular ortho-k use can curb pediatric myopia progression by 43 percent.

Youth Dental & Vision can help your child see as clearly as possible and protect your child's vision for life. Contact us today at any of our offices or request an appointment online.

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