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What is Childhood Myopia?

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Author: Jason Higginbotham
BSc (Hons) MCOptom Prof Cert Glau Prof Cert Med Ret Prof Cert LV FBDO MBCLA

An Introduction to Myopia

You have probably heard of the terms short-sighted or nearsighted and you will know this is why some children wear glasses.


You may not have heard of myopia which is simply the medical term. Put simply, myopia is an eye condition that means that distant objects often appear blurry whilst near objects are generally much clearer to see. 


Critically, myopia should not simply be seen as blurry vision that can be corrected with glasses, because left unmanaged it can lead to serious sight-threatening eye diseases.

Myopia is reaching epidemic levels in many parts of the world according to the BHVI (Brian Holden Vision Institute) and the WHO (World Health Organisation). It’s the pandemic you’ve perhaps never heard of.


People with myopia are called “myopes” or are termed “myopic”.

People who are myopic are often called short-sighted or nearsighted.

A growing problem

Myopia is the inability to see far away objects. In the UK, 1/3 of the population have myopia and globally 2.6 billion people suffer from the condition with prevalence increasing worldwide. 50% of the world's population is predicted to be myopic by 2050 and myopia has been declared an epidemic by the WHO in some countries. There is growing concern for the increase of myopia in children, with myopia twice as common as in the 1960s. Myopia onset usually occurs between 6 and 13yrs of age; earlier-onset is associated with higher levels of myopia in adult life.


Children with myopic parents are at a higher risk and the problem will often worsen without intervention. Myopia is usually caused by an elongated eyeball and if left untreated results in degeneration and thinning of tissue and is highly associated with sight-threatening conditions (cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachment, macular atrophy, and blindness). When myopia has been identified, treatments, such as specialised contact lens have been shown to slow down its progression. Thus authoritative bodies (World Council of Optometry -- WCO) have declared that the standard of care for myopia must include early detection in children allowing myopia management with evidence-based treatments to prevent catastrophic healthcare effects.

TL;DR Key Points
  • Myopia is a global epidemic affecting distant vision.

  • Prevalence increasing, predicted to impact 50% by 2050.

  • Onset usually between 6 and 13 years, earlier onset linked to higher adult myopia.

  • Unmanaged myopia can cause severe eye diseases.

  • Early detection and evidence-based treatments crucial for myopia management.

Normal Eye

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Myopic Eye

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