Myopia is a major problem for today’s children but we can treat it
Short-sightedness or myopia is increasing globally, and it can be socioeconomically expensive and have a big impact on people’s quality of life. In most cases, myopia has its onset in childhood between the ages of about 6 and 15. It causes someone to have blurred distance vision. The patient will need glasses or contact lenses, or even laser refractive surgery to correct the problem and provide clear vision.
Control of myopia to slow down its progression is becoming a hot topic for school-age children. Wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to control or reduce the condition before it has progressed?
First of all, we have to try and understand why schoolchildren are increasingly developing myopia, to the extent that it is becoming an epidemic.
Although the mechanism of myopia is still poorly understood several population studies have observed that the change from outdoor living, where predominantly we use distance vision, to indoor living. Indoors, both academic and leisure pursuits involve focusing largely on close objects and hence we use our near vision. This change in lifestyle between generations as we move into the cities and do more screen and close-up work, corresponds to increasing levels of myopia in children and the situation looks set to get worse.
We do know that the myopic eye becomes longer and this may be in response to various de-focusing, or it may be a chemical reaction. Studies have shown that a reasonable number of children will respond to a low-dose of atropine (at 0.01% strength), which can slow down the progression of myopia. At this level, there are very few side-effects.
Reducing the number of patients with myopia, particularly high myopia, which is -5 dioptres or greater, will help because high myopia is associated with an increased risk of blindness from degenerative changes to the macula, optic nerve and peripheral retina. There is also the risk of retinal detachments, myopic choroidal neovascularisation (CNV), myopic macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts.
Myopia is a significant public health issue and is increasing, with a greater number of young children becoming myopic. In addition, the onset of myopia is occurring at a younger age, which is a risk factor for high myopia.
It is usually the case that after adolescence myopia progression will gradually stabilise in most individuals. Environmental factors play a big part, such as the amount of time spent outdoors, and educational and close-up work over long periods indoors. There are several theories on the cause of myopia in children including changes in certain chemicals in the retina, such as dopamine.
If you would like to know more about this potential treatment to reduce progression of myopia in your child, please contact Miss Naz Raoof at Clinica London for more information and an assessment of your child’s vision.
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Naz Raoof, BA, BM BCh, FRCOphth
Ophthalmologist specialising in Paediatrics, Strabismus & Neuro-ophthalmology
Resident expert – Naz Raoof
I am a Consultant Ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital and the Royal London Hospital (appointed 2017).
At Clinica London, I am responsible for paediatric ophthalmology, strabismus treatment and neuro-ophthalmology. I also see adults and children with general and urgent eye problems and carry out routine and urgent procedures at Clinica London.
I trained as a doctor at the University of Oxford, qualifying in 2004. Following my training, the Royal Hallamshire Hospital (Sheffield) and the University of Sheffield employed me as a junior doctor in Ophthalmology.
I undertook two post-training specialist Fellowships in paediatrics, strabismus and neuro-ophthalmology, including 12 months at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London and in Auckland, New Zealand, before becoming a Consultant.
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