Myopia (nearsightedness) occurs when the eyeball grows too long, or the cornea and/or eye lens are too curved relative to the length of the eyeball. This causes faraway objects to appear blurry. More than 30% of North Americans have this refractive error starting from childhood.
Being nearsighted isn’t just an inconvenience. Children with moderate to severe myopia are at significant risk of developing sight-threatening eye diseases later in life, such as glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and retinal detachment.
But is there a link between spending too much time on digital devices and myopia? While digital devices keep our children busy and entertained, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, it's important to understand the implications associated with all this screen time.
What Does the Research Show?
There is growing evidence that up-close tasks raise the risk of myopia in children. In an analysis of 27 studies on 25,000 children published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers found that the more time children spent on near-work activities like reading, homework, writing, computer use, playing video games, and watching TV, the higher their risk of developing myopia.
The analysis found that the odds of myopia increased by 2% for every hour per week a child did near-work activities.
Other studies have found that children who spend a significant amount of time playing outdoors experience less myopia progression than children who are homebodies. Researchers theorize that looking at distant objects, such as a ball flying through the air at the far end of a sports field, and sunshine play a role in myopia prevention.
Not surprisingly, most eye doctors recommend limiting the amount of time a child stares at a digital screen in order to safeguard their eye health and overall wellbeing. To learn more about myopia or to slow its progression, contact The Myopia Management Centre at Dr. Hopkins & Associates Optometry today.
What Are the Signs of Myopia?
- Blurred vision: Using a digital screen for long periods of time can result in blurry vision, especially when focusing on distant objects.
- Headaches: Untreated myopia can cause serious eye strain, which in turn results in headaches.
- Head tilting or squinting: If you notice your child tilting their head while watching TV or squinting their eyes, it’s a sign that they are having difficulty focusing. This could be a sign of myopia.
- Looking at objects a bit too closely: Oftentimes, children cannot verbally explain how they feel but they can express it in a non-verbal way. If you notice your child moving closer to the TV or that they have trouble seeing the blackboard at school, it can signal myopia.
How Can I Prevent or Slow My Child’s Myopia?
Catching myopia early can help slow its progression and prevent serious eye diseases later in life. As a parent, here is what you can do to help prevent your child from developing this eye condition:
- Try to limit the amount of time your child spends on close work such as reading, homework, and screen time.
- When your child uses a computer, make sure they are properly positioned. Have your child take frequent screen breaks and look across the room for at least 20 seconds during each break.
- Encourage outdoor time of at least 90 minutes a day, preferably in the sunshine. Be sure your child wears UV protected sunglasses.
- Discuss myopia management with your eye doctor to slow and potentially stop the progression of your child’s myopia.
How We Can Help Treat Myopia
If your child exhibits any myopia symptoms, schedule an eye exam with your eye doctor as soon as possible. Undetected myopia can cause many complications, whether academic, social, or emotional. Early diagnosis of myopia and other eye problems can improve your child’s performance in school, on the sports field, and can prevent serious sight-robbing eye diseases later in life.
Furthermore, if your child is diagnosed with myopia, we can help slow its progression with myopia management.
Our doctors work closely with each family and customize treatment programs for every child based on their unique needs. If you are concerned about your child’s myopia, schedule an assessment for myopia management to see if they can benefit from this life-changing treatment.
To learn more about myopia management or to schedule an eye exam, contact The Myopia Management Centre at Dr. Hopkins & Associates Optometry in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls, Welland , and St. Catharine today!