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Vision & Eye Care Q3 2021

New ways to protect your child’s eyes

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Max Halford

FBDO CL Clinical Lead at the Association of British Dispensing Opticians

Myopia is the pandemic you may not have heard of. Also known as short sightedness, this condition is on the rise in children and can cause long term eye health issues. 

A recent study estimated that myopia will affect the vision of nearly half the global population by 2050. In the UK, myopia is more than twice as prevalent in children as it was in the 1960s. But what is myopia, and why should parents be concerned?

What is myopia?

Myopia, also known as short sightedness, means distant objects will appear blurry. It often develops in growing children and until recently the only solution has been spectacle or contact lenses. 

What are the risks?

We now know that the higher the level of myopia in a child, the higher the risk level of eye disease later in life. Cataract, retinal detachment, glaucoma and macula problems are all associated with higher degrees of myopia. 

Time spent outdoors can slow both the onset and progression of myopia while close work can have a detrimental effect. 

Why do children become myopic?

Myopia happens in most cases when the eye continues to grow in length beyond what is needed for optimal vision. Factors that cause this include ethnicity – higher levels of myopia are seen within Asian families; your parents – aperson with one parent who is short sighted has three times the risk of developing myopia, if both the parents are short sighted this increases to six times the risk; and what you are using your vision for. Time spent outdoors can slow both the onset and progression of myopia while close work can have a detrimental effect. 

What should parents do?

Parents should take their children for regular eye tests from a young age – they don’t need to be able to read to have a sight test, the cost of the test is covered by the NHS.

Interventions are now available to control myopia in children. Eyecare professionals are becoming increasingly proactive in recommending these options to children and parents. In the UK, specially designed spectacles lenses are now available which aim to reduce the increase in length that causes the increase in short sightedness. Specialist contact lenses designed to do the same thing are also available in local opticians’ practices.

Myopia progression is at pandemic levels worldwide and will have serious implications for eye health going forward. Solutions are readily available at community and high street opticians across the UK – call and ask to speak to the dispensing optician about myopia management and if it will benefit your child. Remember to include regular eye tests as part of your family’s health care routine.

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