Myopia (often referred to as short-sightedness) is a very common eye condition in children resulting in blurred distance vision. Often they’ll be able to see quite clearly at close-range but distant objects will appear blurred. They may not actually be aware they are having vision issues because even if something does look blurry, it may have always looked that way to them – they have nothing to compare it to.
Research shows myopia is occurring earlier in life. In 1983, the typical onset of myopia was at around 11 years of age but in 2000 the average onset of myopia was just 8 years of age. There is a strong correlation between this statistic and the increased amount of time spent looking at screens together with more time spent in low light conditions. Limiting the amount of time on devices and getting outdoors for an extra 40 minutes a day can help to reduce the risk of your child developing myopia.
But it’s not necessarily something you can prevent and the likelihood of a child having myopia increases when one or both parents are myopic. That’s not to say that they will automatically develop the condition but, for peace of mind, it may be worth considering an early eye test.
Myopia is a condition that will progress until the child stops growing however early intervention can slow the rate of deterioration and can slow the progression.
There are a number of other common conditions that can affect a child’s sight and their ability to learn. Hyperopia (commonly called long-sightedness) is a condition where distant objects can be seen clearly but nearby objects appear blurry. It can cause eyestrain, blurry vision and headaches. About 8% of 6-year-olds have hyperopia so if your child is rubbing their eyes, complains of headaches or sore eyes we recommend an eye check.
Since around 80% of a child’s learning is done visually, it stands to reason that if they can’t see well, their learning will be impacted. But how do we know what to look out for? As a parent, teacher or caregiver there are many symptoms that could indicate a problem, including:
- Poor eye-hand co-ordination
- Getting closer than usual to a screen
- Holding reading material closer than usual
- Squinting or screwing eyes up
- Frequent eye rubbing
- Shutting one eye when reading
- Losing their place when reading
- Poor concentration
- Repeated complaints about headaches or sore eyes
If you suspect you child may have a vision problem, bring them in to see Paediatric Optometrist Jason Kumar. Jason holds an Advanced Certificate in Children’s Vision from the Australian College of Optometry