Impact of Myopia (shortsightedness) in Australian Children

Children who spend more time outdoors have a smaller chance becoming shortsighted. Greater time spent doing near work such as reading, writing, and working on computer/ ipad/ iphone and other digital devices will amount to greater chance becoming shortsighted. 

Myopia in a nutshell

Myopia (shortsightedness) is a condition in which close objects appear clearly but far ones don’t. Myopia occurs when the eye grows too long from front to back; thus images focus in front of your retina instead of on your retina.

Myopia is rising…

The recent Sydney Myopia Study found 31% of our 17-year-olds were myopic which is doubled from a decade ago. Other global myopia studies have also shown similar figures. More recent studies indicate that myopic macular degeneration and other related eye diseases are becoming serious issues globally.

Genetics play a major part in myopia, however recent studies documented that environmental causes our children to develop myopia in younger age.

 

Outdoor play and good posture at near work can help prevent myopia

Children who spend more time outdoors have a smaller chance of becoming shortsighted. Greater time spent doing near work such as reading, writing, and working on computer/ ipad/ iphone and other digital devices will amount to greater chance of becoming shortsighted.

In this day and age, as parents, we can’t prevent our children from using digital devices however parent should be in charge of setting good habit for the children. Regular break doing near tasks (i.e 20 seconds break for every 20 minutes), good posture (30 cm distance), good lighting (even with digital screen always turn on the light in the room), and encourage more outdoor play all are crucial.

Interestingly, as parent myself, I regularly got asked by other parents how to stop children “abusing” their ipad times and how much time do I gave my child screentime. There is no one same rule for everyone; I would say that everything in moderation. American Journal of Paedriatic Ophthalmology indicated than children under the age of 2 should have no screentime.

Personally, I did not give my daughter any screentime until she was 4 years old (with exception of quick videocalls with grandparents). Now that she is at school; she gets maximum of 30 minutes a day (combined TV, ipad and school ipad use). I often prescribe children with other sports, music and engaging activities to encourage outdoor and social time.

 

What happens if my child is diagnosed with myopia?

Once myopia is found; it is usually irreversible. However, we want to prevent them from getting worse. There are myopia control measures that can be taken such as peripheral defocus glasses, myopia control contact lenses as well as Ortho-K lenses, and atropine eye drops in safe low dose. The aim of myopia control is to prevent myopia from getting to moderate to high level such that they are in higher risk of macular degeneration, retinal detachment and cataracts as they get older.

Sonya Wijaya (B. Optom./ PG. Spec. Cert. Cont. Lenses and Paedriatics/ Ther. Endorsed) is an optometrist at Optical In Sight (Doncaster East VIC) www.opticalinsight.com.au