With many of us staying at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, we anticipate that the number of people developing myopia is going to increase. This is particularly concerning for children as myopia is a disease which can have severe consequences on the health and vision of an individual as they grow up. Considering the fact that most children are spending more time in front of screens doing online school and for entertainment purposes, there is not only an increased strain on the eyes, but also an increased risk of binocularity issues that can lead to further eye strain (asthenopia), headaches, and dry eyes.
Though our office is closed for routine care, we want to express the importance of watching your children closely and taking extra measures to ensure that they are as safe as possible when using electronic devices. To help we have provided you with the appropriate information so that you can best identify any potential problems and better protect your children from developing these issues during this time.
What is Myopia?
Myopia, also referred to as nearsightedness, is a vision disease that causes objects at a distance to appear blurry and out of focus and objects nearer to the individual to be more clear. In layman’s terms, myopia is a disease which causes blurry vision due to the fact that the eyeball is too long to sustain good visual health.
Typically, this condition develops during childhood when the eyeball is going through periods of rapid growth. It may continue to progress quickly until early adulthood where the eye tends to stabilize and the condition progresses more slowly. Common signs of myopia include:
- Rubbing the eyes
- Getting closer to computer screens, televisions, or other electronic devices to see clearly
- Tilting the head
- Closing one of the eyes
- Headaches (mainly frontal) after prolonged concentration on tasks
The biggest concern for myopia patients is progression. Glaucoma, retinal detachments, and maculopathy are all conditions that can lead to blindness and all are linked to higher myopia. It is important to note that those who have higher prescriptions are at a greater risk for these developments.
Preventing and Managing Myopia at Home
Myopia management and prevention can be particularly challenging for children during this time with online schooling. Often, children become so engrossed in what they are doing and forget to take the breaks they would normally have in a classroom setting. Children typically have poor posture and sit too close to their device which can convert some emmetropic eyes (normal eyeball length) into myopic eyes.
Myopia is a progressive disease, so the earlier it is detected the better. While it can present its own challenges, online schooling does give parents the opportunity to pay closer attention to important details that help us detect the presence of common vision issues. As you monitor your child, there are a few practices you can implement to make electronic usage a little safer.
Here are some of our tips to best help your child prevent the development of myopia:
- Place your child’s device on a table and try to maintain at least an arm’s length distance between the child and the device. Encourage them to maintain good posture while working.
- Watch the time that your child spends in front of the device. For every 20 minutes of near work, have your child take at least a 2 minute break and look at an object farther away (20 feet or more), flex the internal muscles of the eye, and then you can let them return to their school work. Just like when we stretch our arms, legs, and back after sitting for a while, we need to do the same for our eye muscles. Lead by example, as this practice is good for adults as well. Remember that myopia doesn’t only begin in childhood as there is adult onset myopia, too!
- If possible, set your child up next to a window or spend some time outdoors during breaks. We know that natural light has more lumens, and brighter light has been shown to have a more protective effect against developing myopia.
The best thing you can do for your child is to watch them closely and listen to their complaints. It is important to know that they may not verbally acknowledge the issues they are having, but you will be able to identify these issues by paying attention to their posture and how close they need to be to their screen in order to see clearly.
Make note of any nonverbal cues or symptoms they may be presenting such as tilting the head, squinting, or complaining of headaches or eye pain. Some children may act out or refuse to do their schoolwork, so try not to dismiss their reluctance to cooperate as “being fussy” and instead observe any underlying issues that may be causing them discomfort.
If you suspect your child may be struggling, contact our office and we can further assist you.
We send our best wishes for safety and health to you and your families, and we can’t wait to see you in our office again soon. If you have any questions about myopia and how you can better assist your child, please contact Falcon Vision Centre today.