Eye Health and Nearsightedness in Children
Children often have a progressive form of nearsightedness, or myopia, that worsens throughout childhood. Their vision, though, is easily corrected with eyeglasses, and it usually stabilizes in their 20s when their eyes have finished growing.
What Causes Nearsightedness?
Nearsightedness is the inability to see objects at a distance clearly. In people with myopia, the eyeball is usually slightly longer than normal from front to back. Light rays which make up the images you see, focus in front of, rather than directly on the retina, the light-sensitive part of the eye. When this happens, objects at a distance seem blurry and unclear.
Progressive myopia or nearsightedness is predominantly caused by genetics. Children inherit a tendency to develop the eye condition from their parents. The manner in which a person uses their eyes, such as often performing detailed or up-close work, may also have an influence on the progression of nearsightedness.
How Do I Know If My Child Is Nearsighted?
Most often, young children with nearsightedness don't complain or only complain of difficulties seeing things far away. A nearsighted child may move closer to objects to see clearly. If your child seems to have trouble seeing things at a distance, make an appointment with an eye doctor.
Children need their vision checked at 6 months, 3 years, and before first grade. This is especially important if there is a family history of progressive nearsightedness or other eye conditions.
How Is Nearsightedness Treated In Children?
It is still controversial whether progressive nearsightedness in children can be slowed down. Some recent studies suggest that the use of atropine combined with bifocals slows the progression of myopia.
Children with nearsightedness can wear eyeglasses. They can also start wearing contact lenses when they are mature enough to take care of them. Often this depends on how involved the parents are in caring for the contact lenses. Eye specialists rarely recommend contact lenses before a child enters his or her teens.
Talk to your child's eye doctor to find if contact lenses can help your child.
Can Nearsightedness Be Prevented?
Since nearsightedness is often inherited, it is not totally possible to prevent it. However, there are steps you can take to minimize its effect. Make sure your child is examined early, especially if there is a family history of progressive nearsightedness or other eye conditions. If it is uncomfortable to do work or watch television from a standard distance, your child may already be developing nearsightedness and needs an eye exam.