Myopia in children

Myopia or short-sightedness is common and affects 1 in 10 British children. Increasingly, the condition can impact learning, especially if it isn’t noticed early on.

Short-sightedness can affect how well children can read at a distance as well as their ability to play sport. Myopia can also contribute to tired eyes and headaches.

Once diagnosed the condition can be managed in children with glasses and contact lenses. There are new and interesting preventative treatment options currently being investigated.

Who does myopia affect?

Affecting twice as many children as 50 years ago, myopia can affect any child but is more common in children of East Asian origin – being present in as many as 90 per cent. Children’s vision can continue to worsen until they reach their late teens or early adulthood when it will then stabilise.

How do I know if my child has myopia?

It is important for children to attend for regular eye checks for myopia as well as other eye conditions. There may not be any symptoms with myopia. If a child is reporting headaches or blurred vision it is vital to have their eyes assessed promptly. Optician reviews are free for children under the age of 16 in the UK and are where it can be picked up quickly and treated.

Will too much screen time affect a child’s vision?

There is no definite evidence that more screen time results in an increased risk of being short-sighted. There is a link between myopia in young children who read for long periods and in people who have spent a long time in education. If a child spends a lot of time indoors looking at screens it suggests they may not be getting enough time outdoors, and little time outdoors is a risk factor for myopia. It can also worsen the condition if already present.

A primary school age child spending less than 45 minutes outside a day is more likely to get myopia than one who spends two hours outside. Advice for parents in relation to screen-time is often contradictory. Encouraging children to play outside during lunch breaks and on weekends may be a sensible approach.

Why did my child get myopia?

Our understanding of why some children get myopia remains unclear. However, there are factors that play a part including genetics and time spent outdoors. Short-sightedness runs in family and if one or both of parents have the condition then it is more likely to be passed on, but it can also occur when either parent doesn’t have the condition.

How to treat myopia?

Myopia can usually be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. Laser eye surgery is now more commonly used to treat myopia in adults when symptoms have stabilised.

An exciting new potential management option under investigation is using low strength atropine eye drops at night which help to reduce short-sightedness. The initial study was conducted in Singapore but we are yet to see results in children in Europe.

Hard fitting lenses worn over night as well as multi-focal or soft lenses (where you can have both near and far vision corrected) may also reduce worsening of myopia. However these come with their own risks of corneal infection.

If you are concerned about myopia affecting your child then please contact us.