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Myopia Management

Are Myopic Parents More Likely to Have Myopic Children?

Myopic Parents 640×350If you have myopia (nearsightedness), can you pass nearsightedness on to your children? Yes, you can. Having myopic parents greatly increases a child’s risk of developing myopia.

Due to heredity and other risk factors, myopia is reaching epidemic proportions – with more than 50% of the population expected to be myopic by 2050. That’s worrying, as having moderate to severe myopia greatly increases the risk of developing sight-threatening eye diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration later in life.

What Is Myopia?

If you have myopia, distant objects will appear blurred. This happens when your cornea or eye lens is oval-shaped and excessively curved. As a result, the light entering your eye focuses images in front of your retina instead of directly on it, causing blurred vision.

Can Myopia Be Inherited? What the Stats Say

The answer is yes, myopia can be passed on from parents to children. There are 40 genes that influence the eye’s development and shape, and these could be responsible for nearsightedness.

Children with one myopic parent are 1.5x more likely to develop the condition, and the risk is tripled if both parents have myopia. This makes getting a comprehensive eye exam a must for any child of nearsighted parents.

Other risk factors include spending less than two hours a day outdoors and engaging in “near work” activities like reading and spending time on an electronic device, such as a computer or cell phone. Fortunately, there are ways to manage, slow and sometimes halt myopia progression.

What’s Myopia Management?

Myopia management is a systematic approach to preventing the progression of myopia. It includes lifestyle changes and treatments that help keep your child’s myopia from progressing.

​​We use the latest technology to ensure your child’s vision remains stable and healthy for years to come.

Protect Your Child’s Vision With Myopia Management

Let us help your child diminish the risk of developing ocular disease and vision loss with our effective myopia management program. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Lowy, Dr. Sewell, and Dr. Wan at Lowy & Sewell Eye Care in Concord. We’ll use the latest technology to ensure your child’s vision remains stable and healthy for years to come.

Our practice serves patients from Concord, Thornhill, North York, and Bathurst Manor, Ontario and surrounding communities.

Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Lowy

Q: What are some ways I can reduce my child’s screen time?

  • A: It isn’t easy to change habits, but as a family, you can work together to reduce screen time. Try the following:- Set limits on total amount of screen time per day
    – Create routines around screen use–such as after homework and chores
    – Model healthy screen use for your child
    – Talk to your children about why it is important to limit screen time
    – Engage in physical activity and outdoor sports as a family

Q: When Does Myopia Typically Develop?

  • A: Myopia begins in children as young as 6 and tends to progress until roughly the age of 20. The more it progresses, and the higher the prescription, the greater your child’s risk of developing potentially sight-threatening eye conditions, such as cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and retinal detachment later in life.

How to Reduce Your Child’s Screen Time

How to Reduce Your Childs Screen Time 640×350Many of us are spending more time in front of screens, and kids are no exception. Kids socialize on their phones and play video games, and may have spent part of the COVID-19 pandemic learning online.

The bad news: research has shown that too much screen time is unhealthy for adults and kids.

For this reason, it’s important to teach children to adopt healthy screen-time habits. Here’s how:

Problems Caused by Excessive Screen Time

So what’s wrong with spending hours gaming or watching videos? Plenty.

The Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health study (2019), found that excessive screen time was linked to higher obesity rates and a tendency to eat more junk foods and exercise less.

Children who spent more than 2 hours in front of screens every day had higher rates of depression symptoms. However, it should be noted that moderate to minimal screen time seemed to have a beneficial effect on mental health compared to none.

The eyes, in particular, are adversely affected by hours in front of the screen. This occurs because screens emit blue light, which has shorter wavelengths and more energy than regular light, and the intensity of the light strains the eyes. Meanwhile, researchers are studying whether blue light is harmful to the retina, which converts light into signals that go to the brain.

Also worrying: excessive exposure to blue light can interfere with the circadian rhythm that regulates sleep patterns. The circadian rhythm is an internal clock that indicates when we should be asleep or awake. Hours of blue light exposure before going to bed can throw off these patterns and interfere with sleep.

Screen time has also been linked to higher levels of myopia in young people, according to an Anglia Ruskin University study (2021). Extensive time spent texting or watching videos on a phone led to a 30% higher risk of myopia, or nearsightedness, in young people, and combined with excessive computer use, the risk rose to 80%.

Helping Your Child Cut Back on Screen Time

It’s clear why parents should keep their child from spending too much time in front of screens. The question is how to do it. Here are some tips to help your child develop healthy habits while they’re still young, to help them preserve their mental and physical well-being and their vision.

Set Limits

Make rules that are clear to everyone and are easy to stick to. Think about the amount of time per day you’ll allow your children to look at a screen either for fun or to do homework, factoring in a bit extra for holidays and weekends. For instance, one hour per day during the week and two or three on the weekends. Also consider times that should be screen-free, such as during meals, before completing homework or chores or an hour or two before bedtime.

Get Into a Routine

Once you’ve decided how much screen time should be allowed, create a routine that is manageable and everyone can adhere to. Setting a structure will reduce disagreements, because everyone will know what is expected of them. It may be a good idea to write up these rules and post them close to the computer or in a family room.

For instance, you can assign each child an hour of screen time a day and ask them to sign up for specific slots. Leave the dinner hour vacant so no one is using a screen then.

Set an Example

Making rules stipulating when screen time is allowed and for how long is relatively simple, but following them can be more of a challenge. Modeling behavior can positively influence children, and they are more likely to abide by the rules if they see the adults in their lives also setting limits on screen time. Moreover, everyone working together towards the goal of limiting screen time can engender a feeling of cooperation and shared goals. Instead of texting or scrolling or watching videos, spend more time together as a family, doing things everyone enjoys.

Discuss Why Screen Time Should Be Limited

Kids should not only know what the rules are but the reasons behind them. Discuss with your child why it is important to reduce screen time, including health issues that can arise and how too much blue light can negatively affect their eyes. Knowing the purpose behind rules can make following them easier.

Encourage Physical Activity, Especially Outdoors

Your child may not miss that extra screen time if they’re engaged in fun activities that get the body moving and can improve their health. Being active is not only healthy, but develops real life friendships. Furthermore, numerous studies have shown that children who spend a significant amount of time playing outdoors lower their risk of developing myopia (nearsightedness). Other studies have linked “near work,” such as reading and spending a lot of time on digital devices, to the development and progression of myopia.

Encourage your child to play outdoors for at least 30 minutes to an hour each day, with siblings, friends or as part of a sports team. Perhaps you can take a walk or a bike ride with them after work, or throw a Frisbee and help them get into the habit of having fun without screens.

If you are concerned about your child’s screen time and its effect on their eyes, schedule an eye exam with Dr. Lowy, Dr. Sewell, and Dr. Wan at Lowy & Sewell Eye Care in Our practice serves patients from Concord, Thornhill, North York, and Bathurst Manor, Ontario and surrounding communities..

Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Lowy

Q: What is the connection between blue light from screens and myopia?

  • A: According to a study in the International Journal of Ophthalmology (2018) there is a link between extended exposure to blue light and nearsightedness or myopia. The reason is that blue light has a shorter wavelength and is more intense than regular light. The high frequency of blue light penetrates the front of the retina and can cause nearsightedness.

Q: What is myopia management for kids?

  • A: Myopia management helps slow the progression of the eye condition through special eyeglasses, contact lenses and atropine eye drops. It also involves making lifestyle changes such as reducing screen time. The purpose is to support eyesight and improve eye health to avoid a rapid deterioration in eyesight.

References

Research Suggests a Link Between Childhood Obesity and High Myopia

Three kids playingMyopia (nearsightedness) is a vision condition that causes distant objects and images to appear blurry. It develops when the eye is too long or the cornea – the front covering of the eye – is too curved.

Both genetic and environmental factors have been shown to increase a child’s risk of myopia. But now, researchers have discovered that childhood obesity may be a risk factor for myopia progression and high (severe) myopia.

In recent years, high myopia has become a growing concern among eye care professionals because it raises the risk of developing sight-threatening eye conditions in adulthood.

The Link Between Obesity and High Myopia

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), high myopia is more prevalent among children with higher body mass index (BMI) levels.

Starting in 2016, a study involving 1,114 Korean children and adolescents (aged 5 to 18) was conducted to determine whether there is a correlation between childhood obesity and high myopia. Data was collected for each participant detailing any family history of myopia, diagnosis of a refractive error, waist circumference and BMI.

The results of the study found that the overweight and obese participants were at a greater risk for high myopia, compared to those with normal BMI levels.

Although a firm link between obesity and high myopia has yet to be established, it is important for parents to be aware that their child’s weight could potentially impact not only their general health, but their eye health as well.

How Is Progressive Myopia Treated?

Myopia typically progresses gradually until the eyes reach their adult size, usually at around age 20. However, progressive myopia that requires stronger vision correction each year can be a cause for concern, as it can increase the risk of vision-robbing eye diseases later in life, such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and retinal detachment.

Fortunately, myopia management has been proven to help slow or even stop myopia progression. In fact, several studies show that myopia management can slow myopia progression by up to 78%.

At Lowy & Sewell Eye Care, we offer personalized myopia management programs to help protect your child’s eyes and vision. Contact us today to book an appointment.

 

Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Lowy

Q: Is myopia dangerous for children?

  • A: While myopia is not a dangerous vision condition in and of itself, higher levels of nearsightedness can increase a child’s risk of developing glaucoma, cataracts, retinal detachment and macular degeneration in the future.

Q: Is my child a candidate for myopia management?

  • A: Most children with myopia are candidates for a myopia management program. Although it is best to begin a treatment program as early as possible, many older children and young adults can also benefit from myopia management.
Our practice serves patients from Concord, Thornhill, North York, and Bathurst Manor, Ontario and surrounding communities.

References:

The Link Between Myopia Progression and COVID Confinement

boy doing homework with a tabletSeveral months into the COVID-19 pandemic eye doctors began to notice that children’s myopia was worsening. Researchers set out to learn whether there was, in fact, a link between the pandemic and increased myopia progression, and if so, why.

How The Pandemic Affected Children’s Vision

A recent study published in JAMA Ophthalmology (2021) found that children aged 6 to 13 experienced an increased rate of myopia progression since the beginning of the pandemic, and the lockdowns and restrictions that accompanied it.

The researchers examined the rate of myopia progression from 2015 to 2020 in more than 120,000 children from 10 elementary schools, based on school vision screenings. By the end of the study, children were shown to have significantly higher rates of myopia progression in 2020 than in previous years.

The higher rate of progression was especially severe in children between the ages of 6 and 8. Researchers theorized that the children’s earlier stage of visual development might have been the crucial factor.

Other studies have already determined that children who spend at least 2 hours a day outdoors experience less myopia progression than their peers who stay mostly indoors.

Researchers from the National Eye Institute found that children who spent significant time outdoors — about 14 hours a week — significantly reduced their chances of needing glasses for myopia. Among children with two myopic parents, the chances of needing glasses are roughly 60% if they don’t spend significant time outdoors. However, this study found that, after spending the prescribed 14 hours per week outside, the same children’s risk of myopia dropped to around 20%.

Similar results appear in a study published by the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (February 2019), that shows a significant link between the amount of time children spend engaged in near-work tasks and increased myopia progression.

Taken together, these studies give us a clearer picture of the challenges children have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and why myopia rates in children have soared.

What Can Parents Learn From All Of This?

Parents should make an effort to encourage their children to go outside as often as possible and to spend more time away from screens and other near-work tasks. Moreover, progressive myopia in childhood has been linked to heightened risks of developing sight-robbing eye diseases later in life, such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts.

If you’re concerned about your child’s myopia, make an appointment with their eye doctor as soon as possible, as delays in seeking professional advice can make myopia management more challenging in the future.

 

Q&A

Why is it important to start myopia management when my child is still young?

Parents may at times be reluctant to start myopia management too early. They may be concerned that perhaps starting a child too early would make no difference, or might actually harm their vision somehow.
On the contrary, the longer a child’s myopia is left untreated, the faster their eyes will worsen and the stronger their prescription may ultimately become.

Starting myopia management early will ensure the greatest success in slowing myopia progression.

Though myopia management can benefit all ages, parents can begin myopia management for their children as young as 8 years old.

How do I know if myopia management would help my child?

Although it’s ideal to start myopia management as young as 7 or 8 years old, it is usually helpful for any child or teen, with any level of myopia, under the age of 21. This is because myopia often continues to worsen until about that age.

As your child’s myopia becomes more severe, so do their chances of developing certain eye diseases later in life. Ask your eye doctor which forms of myopia control can best help your child maintain their vision.

Our practice offers myopia management to patients from Concord, Thornhill, North York, and Bathurst Manor, Ontario and surrounding communities.

 

References:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33443542/

https://www.aaojournal.org/article/S0161-6420(17)33464-4/fulltext