5 things to know about myopia in children

With one in five Australian children* experiencing an eye condition, myopia being one of them, we asked Peter Murphy, an optometrist at OPSM, and a good friend of Life Education, five questions about the condition.

1. What is myopia?

Myopia is an eye condition where light is focused in front of the retina, resulting in blurred vision. This is also known as short-sighted or nearsighted.

Those affected by the condition will often be able to see clearly at short distances, like your school books and pens in front of you, however, will not be able to see distant objects as clearly, like the smart board from your desk.

2. What symptoms should I look out for?

Is your child complaining of sore or tired eyes? Moving closer to the screen? Headaches? Squinting? Reduced focus and concentration? Avoiding reading? Shorter attention span?

These are common symptoms of a child with myopia. I would recommend speaking to your optometrist for more information.*

3. What are the risk factors for myopia?

There are two main factors that can increase the risk of myopia - family history and lifestyle choices.

While the exact link between a family history of myopia and the development of childhood myopia is unknown, the likelihood of developing myopia increases when one or both parents are myopic. So first speak with your family about their history of eye conditions.

Secondly, too much unnatural or indoor light increases the risk of developing myopia. This includes any time online, looking at screens, reading, gaming, amongst other activities. That’s why we recommend taking breaks from screen time, and ensuring you spend time outdoors.

4. Can myopia get worse?

Myopia is progressive and typically worsens between the ages of 6-17 years. If caught early, the condition can be easily corrected. However, if not, it can lead to further, more serious eye damage in later life.

As such, it is super important for parents and their children to be taking preventative measures at an early age.

Speak with your optometrist about any symptoms you have or haven’t noticed.

5. What can I and my family do to minimise the risk of myopia?

  • Schedule an appointment with your local OPSM optometrist. As a priority, book in regular eye examinations for your child. Speak with your optometrist about any symptoms you have or haven’t noticed. In an ideal world, you want to detect the condition prior to your child starting school, and treat as required.
  • Introduce restrictions on screen time for your family. For necessary screen time, put reminders on your device to take a 2-3 minute break every 45 minutes.
  • Encourage interactive play with your child from a young age. From stacking building blocks to colouring in, this will help improve your child’s visual skills, and visually-guided eye-hand-body coordination, fine motor skills and visual perceptual abilities.
  • Look out for any delays in your child’s development as this may indicate a vision problem. This could include difficulty with the recognition of colours, shapes, letters, and numbers. It is also important to be aware of the presence of vision problems like crossed eyes (strabismus) or lazy eye (amblyopia).
  • Buy the proper safety equipment for your child’s activities. From sports to science, it is crucial your children have the correct equipment for these activities. Don’t forget about protecting from things you can’t physically see - like UV rays!
  • Make time for outdoor play with your children. Focus on activities that promote hand-eye coordination. This could include throwing and catching a ball, or bike riding!
  • Your eyes are big fans of food rich in antioxidants and omega oils. Ensure your child’s diet includes foods with these nutrients weekly. Suggestions include salmon, fruit (particularly berries), leafy green vegetables, and eggs.

*Good Vision For Life, an Optometry Australia initiative