Article published on The Scotsman website on Thursday 23rd November 2017
Vision on: myopia care advance revealed
Worrying numbers of children are becoming short-sighted. However, there are steps to take now to help make sure your child’s sight lasts a lifetime.
The number of young people affected by myopia – short sightedness – is increasing around the world, with a 60 per cent rise in cases in the UK since the 1960s.
Indeed, one in every five UK teenagers is now myopic, affecting their vision for day to day life and putting them at greater risk of eyesight problems in later life. It’s a worrying statistic, and as research continues to establish why the numbers are soaring, leading optometrists are urging parents and carers to check for problems, and stay up to date with advice and special contact lenses that can help manage the condition and even slow its progress.
What is myopia?
Myopia occurs when the eyeball is too long or powerful, causing objects in the distance to look blurred. It often runs in families however it’s not known exactly why it is increasing at such a rapid rate.
Children are most likely to become myopic between six and 13 years old, and will go on to need increasingly stronger glasses. However some might not even realise they have problems.
As well as impacting on activities such as sport and hobbies, myopia is linked to an increased risk of developing eye diseases such as glaucoma, retinal detachment, myopic degeneration and cataract in later life.
According to the UK’s leading lens specialist, Ian Cameron of Cameron Optometry in St Vincent Street, Edinburgh, while the condition is troubling, there are important steps that can be taken to help control its impact.
“Myopia management is a relatively new concept which aims to slow the progression of myopia in children through identifying risk factors, making adjustments to lifestyle, specialised contact lenses, and occasionally with specific multifocal spectacle lenses,” he said.
“Myopia management contact lenses not only allow your child to see clearly but can slow the progression of myopia by over 50 per cent, and our expertise in contact lenses allows us to provide the most advanced options available based on up-to-date research.”
Focus on help
A vital component in myopia management are contact lenses specially designed to correct a child’s vision by slowing down the elongation and enlargement of the eyeball. Their use means that by adulthood their glasses prescription should be significantly less than if their myopia had been left untreated.
Available for children from seven years old, there’s a choice of ‘daytime’ disposable lenses and overnight lenses worn while asleep – often preferred by children who are sporty.
“Parents and carers are often surprised at how capable young children are at dealing with their lenses,” adds Mr Cameron. “Our experts help build their confidence in handling, inserting and cleaning, and show them what to do if they have little problems, like something gets in their eye.
“It’s only when we’re sure they’re totally confident, that we allow them to take lenses home. We then monitor progress closely.
“Interestingly recent research found children in the youngest age category (age eight to 11) the risk or eye infections related to contact lens wear was no higher than it was for adults and in was probably markedly lower.”
What else you can do?
Myopia can’t be cured, but limiting close up tasks such as screen time and reading, ensuring plenty of time outdoors in natural light and vitamin D can help reduce the chances of a child becoming short-sighted.
Regular eye examinations every year from pre-school age can pick up problems, but look out for a child is who has regular headaches, concentration problems, difficulty reading the school boards or who screws their eyes up to see things further away.
“Myopic children can be unaware that they are not seeing as well as they could be, and presume their vision is the same as everyone else,” warns Mr Cameron.
“The earlier these first steps are taken, the best chance they have of making a difference.”
Award-winning Cameron Optometry is a former AOP Practice of the Year, recognised for its expertise and service. For a free initial Myopia Management assessment, call 0131 225 2235 or email [email protected]