Why is myopia important and why should you care?
For too long, myopia has been synonymous with 'just being short-sighted' and has been treated by providing corrective lenses which help sufferers see clearly. However, this is like a sticking plaster, only correcting the error, not trying to fix the problem - and myopia is now at epidemic levels and continuing to increase. On a more personal individual level, the number of children with high myopia is also increasing and these children are at a much greater risk of developing several eye conditions that could significantly affect their sight as they age. As we have seen, myopia is only going to get worse due to our modern lifestyles and genetics - unless something is done.
So, the reason why you should care about myopia is because of the key question - how valuable is your child's eyesight - both now and when they have grown up? We would say - priceless!
TL;DR Key Points
Myopia is reaching epidemic levels due to modern lifestyles and genetics.
Children with high myopia are at a greater risk of developing serious eye conditions.
Axial myopia occurs when the eyeball length stretches, leading to thinning of the retina and other eye structures.
Myopia affects children's performance at school and sports activities.
Myopic adults have a significantly higher risk of sight-threatening conditions, especially those with high myopia.
Your child's glasses prescription can be something of a ‘red herring’ in myopia. Because the optical surfaces of their eyes may be steeper or flatter than expected, the refraction might not match the axial length of the eye. This is important because if a child with a long axial length (AXL) has flat optical surfaces, their myopic prescription may not be very high, but their long AXL could increase their risk of future eye conditions far more than their prescription might otherwise suggest. Ask your eye care professional to measure your child's axial length.
Most of the myopia that we are seeing develop is axial. As seen already, axial myopia occurs when the eyeball length stretches. Over time, this stretching can cause thinning of the retina and other structures of the eye.
This table shows the increased risk of cataract, glaucoma, retinal detachment and myopic maculopathy (which is essentially a form of macular degeneration) with increasing myopia.
Modified from Global Myopia Symposium 2020 and other publications.
What are the risks of myopia?
For children, the main problem is trouble when trying to read the whiteboard at school and being capable of keeping up with this type of activity compared to their classmates at school. Glasses can be a hindrance when playing sports and 40% of kids report that they feel uncomfortable wearing glasses.
However, the biggest risks come much later. Myopic adults have a significantly higher risk of serious sight-threatening conditions as a result of myopia. Especially the ones who are highly myopic, they may be over 20 times more likely to have a sight-threatening disease as compared to a person who isn't myopic.