School is starting back up and many students are facing the reality of distance learning. This means hours spent doing classwork and homework while staring at a computer screen. For many students, this may lead to eyestrain and tired eyes. However, there is growing evidence that time spent indoors and working on screens can lead to children developing myopia.
Myopia is the clinical name for nearsightedness, which is when eyes can see up close clearly, but need glasses or contacts to see distant objects. Myopia typically occurs during childhood and progresses until the later teenage years or early twenties. In 1970 only 25% of Americans were myopic. Today, that number has increased to 40%. Particularly, school-age children with myopia are increasing at an alarming rate.
Traditionally, myopia has been treated with glasses or contacts. As a child grows, their myopia gets steadily worse and their glasses prescription steadily stronger. Increasing myopia does not just mean thicker glasses.
High myopia also increases the risk of many sight-threatening diseases. The risk of retinal detachment is up to 20x higher in persons with myopia; myopic maculopathy has a similar effect on vision as macular degeneration; and the risk of glaucoma is 3x higher in persons with myopia.
Fortunately, the options available to children and parents has changed since 1970. Today we have treatments to help slow the rate of myopia progression. Recently, the MiSight 1-Day soft contact lenses has been FDA approved for the treatment of myopia in children. This contact is worn daily by children, and over the course of treatment can reduce myopia progression by 50%.
In addition to the MiSight contact lenses, there are specialty hard contact lenses and medicated eye drops that can help slow the progression of myopia. Ultimately, it is important to detect myopia early in children so that these treatments can have the maximum effect.
Contact your local, trusted optometrist to make an appointment for your children and discuss what options are best for maintaining healthy sight for your family.
Dr Michael Scheidt, OD, MPH, is a residency-trained optometrist practicing with Cambridge Eye Associates. He can be reached at 763-689-1494.