Updated: Apr 20
Latest figures have revealed that a million teenagers in the UK are short-sighted – with the threat of a national 'eye health epidemic' looming.
Author: Keyur Patel, TK&S Optometrists
Nationally, one in five teenagers is short-sighted – double the number affected 50 years ago. Experts have warned this figure is likely to grow significantly in the next 30 years, serving as a 'ticking timebomb' to the nation's eye health.
Short-sightedness, also known as myopia, can lead to an increased risk of several eye conditions, such as myopic maculopathy and glaucoma, that could eventually result in visual impairment or blindness. We need to act now to help future generations.
Children as young as three or four can be affected, and their chances of being short-sighted are significantly increased if either parent has myopia. If we can spot the signs early, we can help prevent more serious issues further down the line. The earlier the condition starts, the more likely the child will have high myopia later in life, increasing the risk to vision.
We've identified three things you can do NOW to help your child's sight stay stronger for longer.
Put the devices down
Data shows that increases in myopia are very much lifestyle driven. Young people spend a lot of time on near tasks such as reading and writing and electronic devices such as iPads, phones and game consoles. Strike the right balance and limit the use of screens where you can.
Children spend a lot of time couped up in classrooms and sitting indoors. Spending more time outdoors has been shown to reduce the onset of myopia. It also reduces the amount of close work children do and lessens the time spent on smartphones, for example. They mustn't miss out on Vitamin D, which may play a potential role in health, including eye health. Low light levels may cause myopia progression, so good old-fashioned outdoor play could be the answer. Early studies show that increased time outside could slow the onset of myopia by up to 34 per cent.
Talk to a specialist near you
It's really important that you talk to a qualified specialist. We know there are people and websites out there who provide 'advice' and 'guidance', on how to reverse myopia. Unfortunately, these sites are not backed up by the latest scientific information or understanding of the subject.
There are however many specialists who can provide you with the information you need to make a decision on treatments that can slow the progression of myopia in children.
Many practices, including ourselves (TK&S Optometrists), offer specialist myopia lenses from various manufacturers, including CooperVision's MiSight, VTI's NaturalVue and Mylo from Mark'ennovy, which they use alongside a suite of other state-of-the-art methods such as orthokeratology to manage myopia in both children and adults.
Wearers of these lenses can expect to cut myopic progression, providing better vision when not wearing their contact lenses. This reduces their chances of developing high levels of myopia which may lower the incidence of eye diseases associated with shortsightedness, such as retinal detachment and glaucoma.
Research has revealed an increase in the number of children growing up in urban areas who develop short-sightedness. Whilst glasses and soft contact lenses can correct the condition, until now, they have been unable to slow its rate of progression.
If you're a parent whose child has been diagnosed with myopia or if they are struggling with their distance vision, we hope you found MyopiaFocus helpful. Please join our community or sign our petition to get the government and NHS to recognise myopia as an ocular disease/severe ocular condition and fund myopia management for children.