Researchers have stated that Myopia is one of the most common vision issues affecting children around the world. It has been estimated that by 2050, almost five billion people will be myopic. In 2020, in the U.S.A., it was reported that approximately 40% of the population is myopic compared to only 28% in 2000. Fortunately, in June of 2019, the American Optometric Association (AOA) took action to promote public awareness about childhood myopia and the importance of slowing myopia in children. In 2020, the AOA proclaimed 2020 as the “Year of the Eye Exam” to encourage parents to schedule an in-person eye exam with an AOA family doctor of optometry for themselves and their children.
Helping Our Children Keep Their Eyes Healthy
We live in a digital world where our children need to use digital devices as part of their education, entertainment and to stay connected with us and their friends. Naturally, spending a significant amount of time in front of a screen can lead to digital eye strain which can harm our children’s ocular health. It is extremely difficult to eliminate the use of such devices but it doesn’t mean we can’t encourage our children to develop proper digital device habits to help us protect their vision and overall health. Our doctors at Eyes of NM Family Optometry and Contact Lenses would like to share some practical advice about helping our children keep their eyes healthy:
Limit Screen Time
The average child between the ages of 3 to 5 spends about 2 hours a day in front of a screen. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children in this age group should not spend more than one hour. Consequently, we need to encourage our children to limit their screen time and for older children to take frequent breaks and to develop healthier viewing habits. Currently, there are numerous applications available to help parents manage children’s screen time such as Plano, Screen Time Parental Control, unGlue, Screen Time, Digital Wellbeing and more.
Increase Outdoor Time
Nowadays, we need to ensure that our children spend more time in natural light to help them avoid developing myopia, or to slow down its progression. We need to encourage outdoor activities such as playing sports, going for walks, playing in the park or the backyard and riding their bikes or scooters.
Engage Kids In Non-Digital Activities
By encouraging our children to engage in activities that will take them away from digital screens, we not only lower the risk of myopia but also help sharpen their vision skills. For example, by simply spending time playing with toys which require hand-eye coordination such as puzzles and building blocks or by painting and drawing or even playing catch, you will help your child’s vision grow and develop.
Develop Healthy Eye Care Habits
Helping our children develop basic healthy eye care habits is also extremely helpful in controlling the development of nearsightedness. Here are some habits we should all try to develop to help keep our eyes healthy:
- When reading, ensure there is adequate lighting and hold the book about 30 cm away from our eyes.
- If possible, we should choose books with a large print.
- We should discourage our children from reading in bed and in moving vehicles.
- Computer screens should be about 20 inches away from our eyes and positioned to avoid glare from the reflection of light sources such as windows and indoor lighting.
- When watching TV children should sit as far as possible especially if the TV screen is large.
- Ensure that our children get at least 8 hours of sleep to rest their eyes.
Ortho-K or Orthokeratology Contact Lenses
Ortho-K contact lenses have been found to be very effective in controlling the progression of myopia. This treatment reshapes your child’s cornea while sleeping and therefore enabling him or her to see clearly during the day without needing to wear glasses. Unlike Lasik, it’s not a permanent solution but Ortho-K contact lenses can help slow down the progression of nearsightedness.
Atropine Eye Drops
Atropine eye drops can be used on a daily basis (one drop in each eye at bedtime) for about 2 years to reduce the progression of myopia. These drops do not prevent the development of myopia, they are used to control and limit its development. Children prescribed Atropine must be monitored by their optometrist about twice a year. Atropine eyes drops are only used at 0.01% concentration to avoid side effects such as photophobia, a condition where our eyes develop sensitivity to sunlight or strong lighting.
Annual Eye Check-Ups
Children should have regular eye exams (at least once a year) to ensure their eyes are healthy and developing properly. At Eyes of NM Family Optometry and Contact Lenses, we perform comprehensive testing to determine if children can see clearly and avoid difficulties at school, sports and any other activities. Vision issues can interfere with reading, performance, interest in school, and reaching important educational milestones. What’s more, the possibilities of treating myopia effectively increase when it is diagnosed at an early stage.