Detecting myopia in children

With children spending more time with their families over the summer months, pay attention to the signs of their eyesight being affected by myopia.

Myopia is short-sightedness, where you can see clearly up close but have blurry long-distance vision. It affects around a third of the world’s population and is set to increase to 50 percent by 2050.

Symptoms of myopia are:

  • Sitting close to the TV
  • Holding a tablet or book at close range
  • Screwing eyes up to read or watch TV
  • Headaches
  • Rubbing eyes a lot
  • Difficulty reading words at a distance

With myopia, it’s more significant than just needing glasses for blurred vision. It’s caused by the eyes growing too quickly which stretches the retina, the sensitive layer at the back of the eye.

Myopia typically starts before a child is ten, usually around the age of six, and deteriorates every few months until it stabilises around the age of 20.

A child with one short-sighted parent is three times more likely to have myopia, and the risk increases to six times if both parents are.

Standard single-focus glasses don’t work for myopia. Children with myopia need to be prescribed special corrective lenses to slow the worsening of it. They fix the focus of the eye to create clearer vision and will need to be frequently changed as they age and the eye length grows. While these lenses can control the myopia, they won’t cure the short-sightedness, and neither will laser eye surgery. If they eye grows too long, it can’t be reversed.

Other treatment options include softer contact lenses, ortho-k lenses that are worn overnight and reduce the need for daytime glasses, and atropine drops to dilate the pupil.

Without any treatment, myopia can cause complications such as a squint or lazy eye. Higher levels of myopia also put children at increased risk of eye disease in adulthood, such as glaucoma, cataracts, retinal detachment and macular degeneration.

If you notice any changes to your child’s vision over the summer, it’s best to be seen by an optician who will do a thorough eye examination to check for any signs of myopia or other eye conditions. Children’s eye tests are free on the NHS.