So you’ve been told that your child needs glasses for short sightedness or myopia. You may have also been told that it’s most likely to get worse, and quickly. What can you do about it?
I remember when I was 10 years old, I visited my Aunt’s optical clinic. I wanted to wear eyeglasses so badly because it was cool to walk around with these. Not a ton of kids wore glasses. Since I had perfect vision then, my Aunt gave me a pair of glasses without lenses. I started sporting these and found out almost immediately that my glasses actually didn’t have lenses!
Nowadays, when you go to malls, parties and schools, you would notice more and more kids are either wearing eyeglasses or contacts. So why is it that many school-aged children are already wearing eyeglasses? It boils down to genetics and the environment. More and more kids are becoming nearsighted, and according to research, if one parent is nearsighted, a child has a medium risk of developing nearsightedness; however, if both parents are nearsighted, then the risk becomes higher. Genetics is just one side of the equation, because environment plays a big role in contributing to your children being nearsighted.
Here are some tips to control your children’s nearsightedness:
1. Let them play outdoors. In an Australian Study, it was shown that even if the kids are of Asian descent, the prevalence of nearsightedness is lower compared to their Asian counterparts in China, Singapore and Taiwan. This is attributed to the exposure kids have to more outdoor activities as Australia has a lot of parks. At least 90 minutes per day is suggested. It appears to be the chemical signaller dopamine, stimulated by sunlight, that protects against eyeball growth. In nearsighted patients, the eyeball is seen to be longer than average. Exposure to outdoor activities is effective when children are not yet nearsighted. In China, they are now looking into bright classrooms to increase children’s exposure to outdoor light, while some schools in Taiwan have already incorporated more recess time in a day and outdoor activities just to help control nearsightedness.
2. Restrict gadget use. We tell the kids not to use their gadgets for a very long time, however some parents are also guilty, as to tame down kids’ tantrums or to let them eat quickly, parents would give in and just allow the kids to use their gadgets. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is best to limit computer or video use to 1 hour.
3. View screens and books at Harmon distance. Harmon distance is the distance between the elbow and the middle knuckle. This distance is how far the kids should be reading their books and looking at their gadget screens. The closer the viewing distance, the more the eyeball grows, and the faster the progression of nearsightedness. Remember too that the bigger the screens of the gadgets (ex. IPAD vs mobile phone), the farther your kids can position the gadgets from their eyes.
4. 20–20–20 vision breaks. Everything should be in moderation. For both gadget use and book reading, practice 20–20–20 vision break rule. For every 20 minutes of near work, look as far as 20 feet, for at least 20 seconds. This would also help prevent your kids to have dry eyes.
When you visit your eye care provider, ask about nearsighted (myopia) control. Many parents would say, “ There’s always LASIK”, but do you know that your child’s risk of eye diseases like retinal detachment increases from 4X to 10x when her myopia reaches -3.00D, and up to 16x when her myopia is higher than -6.00D? Waiting for LASIK and not doing anything to try and slow down the progression of myopia may not be the optimal solution for long term eye health.
Gone are the days that we just wear glasses or contact lenses to be able to see well — prevention is the key for healthy eyes. Control nearsightedness at a young age — this is also called myopia management — and explore one of the methods like orthokeratology contact lenses, soft multifocal contact lenses and special designed eyeglass lenses. Visit your eye care provider to assess if your child is eligible for one of these preventive care solutions.