Myopia – what you can do

Myopia is the medical term for nearsightedness. Myopia is where the eyeball is too long or too powerful. The result is blurred vision; far away objects become blurry, but vision for close objects is clear within a certain range.

60 years ago, 10-20% of the Chinese population was short-sighted. Today, up to 90% of teenagers and young adults are. In Seoul, 96.5% of 19-year-old men are short-sighted. In USA and Europe, approx. half of young adults are myopic, double the prevalence of half a century ago. Worldwide, it is estimated that 2.5 billion people (roughly 1/3 of the world population) are myopic.

Myopia is on the increase and carries with it risks of myopic macular degeneration, retinal detachment, glaucoma, and cataracts.

Eyecare specialists are seeing myopia in younger and younger children. Child myopia is reaching what are now referred to as epidemic proportions.

Why do we need to control myopia?

Generally, once you become myopic, it tends to worsen over time. Myopia suffers need stronger glasses with thicker, heavier lenses year after year.

What causes myopia development and progression? Contributing risk factors identified for myopia include:

  • Family history
  • Time spent outdoors
  • Time spent on near work
  • Age of onset
  • Ethnicitymyopia-genetics

Why are we seeing higher incidence, higher degrees and earlier onset of myopia?

The answers are not clear, but because such rapid changes have been observed over such a short time (25 to 30 years) genetics alone cannot be the cause. Research has come up with two simple things which have a very strong influence.

Children who spend a lot of time engaged in near activities (reading, using hand-held electronics, etc.) appear to have a greater risk of becoming nearsighted. Research also shows spending more time outdoors lowers the risk of childhood myopia. So, tell your kids to go outside and play!

Time outdoors

There is strong evidence that spending more time outside in natural daylight will delay the onset of myopia and reduce the final level. Indoor light is much dimmer than outdoor, even on a cloudy day. Studies have also shown that myopic children become more myopic in the winter months than they do in the summer. Shorter periods of natural daylight being viewed as the reason. Outdoor open spaces have farther viewing distances, whereas more confined indoor environments force the eyes to focus at relatively shorter distances. “At-risk” children who spend 14 hours per week outdoors (two hours per day) can delay the onset of myopia. Spending more time outside, walking the family dog, playing sport, going to the park are highly recommended.

Reducing near work

Whether it’s reading, writing, playing on a tablet, taking photos, learning a musical instrument or computer games, close-up activities increase the focusing demands on the eyes. Guidelines should be established for the limitation on number of hours spent on near tasks and children should take frequent vision breaks. After every 30 minutes of concentrated near work, children should take a short break, look outside and rest their eyes. Good lighting is also important, as is distance from the screen (both TV and computer).

Balancing the amount of time children spend inside with more time outdoors and forming good habits when reading and studying is a good way of helping prevent their eyes from getting worse.

Get an eye test

A vision test by an optometrist can determine a myopia diagnosis. If a vision problem is detected during an eye chart test, the retina may be examined using a retinoscope. This device shines light on the retina so one of John O’Connor’s eye doctors can examine it more thoroughly.

To check your vision is 20/20, book an eye test by calling a Newmarket optometrist on 09 522 1283, Henderson Optometrists on 09 836 1731 or send us an email enquiry via our contact page. We’d be happy to organise an appointment for you to come in talk to our optometrists at a time that suits you best. Free parking is available at Newmarket and both optometry practices are open six days a week.