Longford optician addresses myopia debate

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Healthy eyes week

Longford optician Stephen Olwell provides advice this week about myiopa, otherwise known by shortsightedess

What is Myopia?

Myopia, what most people call shortsightedess, is the type of vision where distant objects appear blurry. Glasses are needed for TV, the whiteboard at school, driving and increasingly now, for everything.

Myopia occurs as we grow, when the eyeball grows too large, or when the cornea (the front of the eye) becomes too steeply curved. This means that light is not focused perfectly on the inside of the eye and distant objects appear blurry.

Myopia affects 1 in 5 people in Ireland and the UK, but in the USA this is more like 1 in 3 and in some areas of Eastern Asia almost everyone. This accounts for approximately 25% of the worlds population, and is set to rise to 50% by 2050.

High or pathological myopia, is when a person cannot function without glasses, and this is on the rise also. At present 3% of the world’s population would be classed as having high myopia, but this is set to rise to 10% by 2050.

Why is this a problem?

People with high myopia are more likely to be affected by Glaucoma, Myopic Macular Degeneration, Retinal Detachment and many other serious eye conditions.

What causes myopia?

The causes are complex, and some comes down to genetics. Children with myopic parents are between 3 and 6 times more likely to be myopic, but a child’s environment plays an even more important role in their development.

Time spent doing close work can cause myopia, and more than 2.5 hours per day using tablets and screens has been shown to increase a child’s risk.

How would I know if my child is myopic?

If your child sits very close to the TV or needs to sit close to the board in school, these may be signs that they are myopic. Other signs include rubbing the eyes frequently, excessive blinking and headaches located in the forehead.

What can I do about it?

The first step is to try to stop myopia before it starts.

Time spent outdoors reduces the risk of myopia developing, and 90 minutes per day (weather permitting) has been shown to be protective for children.

If your child is short-sighted, then glasses or contact lenses are the next step.

If this is progressive, it can be slowed by using specific types of glasses or contact lenses, which can reduce the risk of high myopia developing in the teenage years.

If you are concerned about myopia, or feel that your child may be myopic, it is important to have their eyes examined regularly and from as early an age as possible.