Articles, Blog

The Myopia Epidemic in Children

March 5, 2020

Dr. Jones: We know that Myopia is increasing in prevalence around the world. In fact, it’s been predicted by 2050, 50% of the world population will be myopic. VO: Dr. Debbie Jones and other Canadian eye experts are warning that Myopia, or near-sightedness, is becoming an issue among more and more young people, with the number of cases growing at an epidemic level. Dr. Jones: In Canada, we did a study here, through the University of Waterloo, where we looked at prevalence locally. We found in our younger age group, aged 6-8, about 6% of children were near-sighted, were Myopic. So that’s about 1 to 2 children per classroom. When we looked at the older age group, the 11-13s, we found that actually close on 30% of the children were Myopic. VO: So why is Myopia increasing in children? According to Dr. Joshua C. Smith, President of the Ontario Association of Optometrists, Dr. Smith: Doctors have long thought that too much time spent looking at near objects like books and electronic screens, puts children at risk of increased Myopia. However, a major article published in 2015 in the journal Nature summarized a body of literature showing that it is actually time spent outside that most significantly affects a child’s risk of developing myopia. This article brought this issue into the public eye. Dr. Jones: It’s a concern that children are becoming myopic earlier because they are more likely to have a higher prescription later on. And that higher prescription can lead to complications such as retinal detachments, and other retinal degeneration. We can only assume the complications associated with higher prescriptions will also occur earlier if the child has a higher prescription at an earlier stage. So that’s the big concern. One of our goals is to look at A) the causes of Myopia but B) also what we can do about it, and how we can slow down the progression of Myopia, such that children end up with lower prescriptions than they might otherwise. Dean: When Sophie was first diagnosed with Myopia, she was about 8 years old. She was having difficulties in school, seeing the whiteboard. So we brought her in for regular eye exams. It wasn’t really a big surprise to us because both my wife and I were myopic. Her brother had already been diagnosed, so we were sort of expecting it. Dr. Jones: Through a regular eye examination, we can determine risk factors for Myopia. And we can address those and things that can be done to try and prevent the onset of Myopia. We can also determine if a child is already myopic and plan to intervene early such that their prescription stays at a low level. A couple of decades ago, when you saw a child who was near-sighted, who was myopic, plain and simple, they were given spectacles to help them see. Um, and as their prescription changed, over the years, the prescription would be increased accordingly. Now what we know is we have methods to slow down the progression so that we can keep children in lower prescriptions, which reduces their risk of complications later on in life. And we have various ways of doing that. There’s been a lot of research over the years, and we have products available now that are proven and tested to slow down the progression. So there’s eye drops, there’s some spectacle lenses on the market, and then there are contact lenses. And in fact, here in Canada, we have a Health Canada authorized product called MiSight, that is shown to slow down progression of Myopia by over 50%. Parents are often concerned that their children are too young for contact lenses and really, there is no age limit. Our study actually fit children age 8 to 12. Sophie: Being active and not having to wear glasses all the time, it’s just so much easier for me. Wearing contact lenses as a kid, it’s really worth it. You don’t have to, like, be careful, that much. You can rough house with your friends. VO: At the end of the day, it’s all about giving our children their best future by protecting their vision. Dr. Jones: So it’s really important that parents set regular eye exams for their children as part of their overall well-being. They need to make sure they attend their optometrist annually or as recommended to make sure that their children don’t have Myopia, and if they do, do something about it. Sophie: In the future, I would envision myself as like a biomedical scientist or maybe a world traveler or a journalist or something. VO: To learn more about Myopia, please speak with your eye healthcare professional or visit the website below:

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