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Myopia in Children: Risk Factors, Symptoms and Prevention

Point of view comparison of normal eye vision on the left and nearsightedness on the right.

If your child is squinting, complaining of headaches or having trouble concentrating at school, they may be suffering from myopia. 

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is on the rise in American children. Not only is myopia rising, but it is also starting to present younger and younger and tends to get more severe as the child ages.

Luckily, if you know the risk symptoms and factors, you may be able to manage your child’s myopia. 

What is Myopia?

Simply put, myopia is blurry long-distance vision that usually begins between the ages of 6 and 14. If your child suffers from myopia, it means they can see clearly up close, but objects or images viewed at a distance appear blurry. 

Myopia is common, affecting nearly 5% of preschoolers and 9% of school-aged children. It occurs when the image seen by the eye is focused prior to reaching the retina, causing the image to be out of focus and appear blurry. 

What Causes Myopia?

As more and more is learned about childhood myopia, the following causes have been outlined as potential reasons why young children may develop nearsightedness.

The Eye is Growing Too Quickly 

Childhood onset myopia is most commonly caused by the eyes growing too quickly, or growing at a time when eye growth should stop (around 12 years old). Several factors can affect eye growth, from genetics, to environment to individual characteristics. 

Genetics

Unfortunately, if either of the child’s parents suffer from myopia, they are more likely to suffer from the condition as well. 

Too Much Nearsighted Eye Activities

Recent studies link myopia with performing nearsighted work too often. These activities include things such as reading books, colouring or watching TV too closely. 

If you are concerned that your child may be suffering from myopia, book an appointment with their eye doctor today and request that they have a children’s eye examination to receive a proper diagnosis. 

Symptoms 

Unfortunately, children don’t often report vision symptoms, as they have nothing to compare their eyesight to, assuming it’s just how everyone else sees too. Your child may not know they are suffering from blurry vision, which is the most common symptom of myopia, so it is important that you watch out for all of the following symptoms and risk factors. 

Symptoms

Common symptoms of myopia in children include:

  • Squinting or closing one eye
  • Moving closer to or sitting near objects they are trying to pay attention to, like the TV
  • Clumsiness 
  • A decrease in academic performance 
  • Complaints of headaches, eye pain, or sensitivity to light

Risk Factors 

The following risk factors are associated with myopia. 

Ethnicity

Ethnicity is a considerable risk factor associated with myopia. Studies have shown that Asian and Hispanic children are at a higher risk of developing myopia in childhood. 

Age

As myopia tends to get worse over time, age is an important risk factor to take note of. Generally, myopia occurs during the ages of 6-14 and typically progresses until age 20.

Genetics

As previously mentioned, a child is more likely to suffer from myopia if one or both of their parents suffer from the condition. 

Young boy wearing contact lens to control myopia.

Can Myopia be Prevented?

Although myopia cannot be prevented, it may be slowed. 

To help slow the  progression of myopia in your child you should:

  • Get your child’s vision checked regularly
  • Ensure your child follows all recommendations mentioned by their eye doctor, including wearing corrective lenses if needed
  • Make sure your child wears sunglasses with UV radiation protection
  • Schedule regular breaks for your child from nearsighted activities 
  • Make sure your child eats a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids
  • Encourage your child to get outdoor playtime 

How is Myopia Diagnosed?

In order to get a myopia diagnosis, your child will need to receive an eye examination. When your child receives a children’s eye exam, their eye doctor will check the overall health, vision and condition of their eyes.

Myopia is a common eye condition so your child’s eye doctor will be able to identify if your child suffers from this condition easily through a regular eye exam. 

How is Myopia Treated? 

If your eye doctor diagnoses your child with myopia, there are several treatment options available to you:

The best way to find a treatment that is right for both you and your child is to book an appointment and discuss a treatment plan with your doctor that is best suited to your child’s vision needs.

Written by Sharokh Kapadia

Dr. Kapadia originally hails from St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Brock University. He then went on to graduate with honors from the Michigan College of Optometry in 1998, where he specialized in contact lenses. After he graduated, Dr. Kapadia completed a one-year residency at the renowned Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Florida, where he focused on ocular diseases.

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