Childhood Myopia: What It Is and What You Can Do To Help Your Child.

Dozens of parents bring their children into our practices every day for eye exams and other services, and many ask us questions about myopia. While instances and awareness of myopia are on the rise, to help spread myopia awareness we’ve written out the basics on childhood myopia, why it matters, and what you as a parent can do to help preserve your child’s eye health in the long run.

What is Myopia?

Myopia (often referred to as nearsightedness) is the most common cause of impaired vision in people under age 40, and its prevalence in children is JAMA Ophthalmology, individuals with high myopia are more likely to need cataract surgery at an earlier age than those with no myopia.

Furthermore, aside from an increased risk of adult eye disease, untreated myopia can prevent a child from succeeding academically and socially.

A 2019 study published in the Community Eye Health Journal underscores the importance of excellent visual acuity in school-aged children. It found that offering vision correction to students with myopia has more of an educational impact than providing them with vitamins or medications to maintain or improve their physical health.

Myopia has equally serious ramifications outside the classroom. A study published in BMC Ophthalmology (2016) found that adolescents with myopia are more likely to have anxiety than their peers with normal vision.

Furthermore, adverse visual symptoms impact a child’s self-esteem, according to a study published in the Journal of Optometry and Vision Science.

The good news is that certain lifestyle choices, especially when coupled with myopia management treatment, can have a lasting positive effect on your child’s eye health.

What Can Parents Do To Help Slow Myopia Progression?

We know that parents want what’s best for their children. So here are a few recommendations that will help keep your child’s eyes healthy — whether or not myopia has set in.

Take your kids outside to play. Several studies have indicated that children who spend over 2 hours outdoors during the day have lower levels of myopia and slower myopia progression.

A recent study published in BMC Ophthalmology and cited in Review of Optometry (2021) found that for non-myopic children with myopic parents, “a high level of outdoor exposure had a remarkable influence on the risk of new myopia for children even with one myopic parent.”

Although it’s not always easy, try to limit the amount of continuous near work your child does. Whether it’s reading or scrolling through a phone, remind your child to take breaks.

However, the most important thing you can do to protect your child’s long-term eye health is manage their myopia with treatment.

We Can Help Preserve Your Child’s Eye Health

At Treehouse Eyes, our goal is to provide expert care to each and every child with kindness and a smile.

Our state-of-the-art equipment and diagnostic technology enable us to thoroughly assess your child’s visual condition and needs. We offer the latest treatments to manage your child’s myopia and effectively slow down how quickly myopia progresses.

Help your child succeed in school and in activities, and offer them a better overall quality of life with myopia management.

Give your child the tools they need to succeed! To schedule your child’s back-to-school eye exam, visit our appointments page or to see a list of all providers near you visit Treehouse Eyes today.

The impact of COVID-19 on children’s vision

One impact of COVID appears to be an acceleration of myopia, or blurry distance vision in children. Two new studies confirm what we are seeing in our practice, that more indoor time and screen time during the pandemic has impacted children’s vision. Studies of over 2,000 kids in Hong Kong, and over 100,000 children in China, showed myopia rates in children more than doubled during the pandemic. Myopia happens when the eye grows too long and significantly increases the risk of serious eye disease during a child’s lifetime. Left untreated, myopia in children usually progresses and is best treated early.

Dr. Lawrence Jacobs
Dr. Lawrence Jacobs, of Highlands Ranch HD Eye Care, says the pandemic created more cases of myopia in children because of increased screen time for school, video games and cell phones.

As the pandemic pushed students to online learning here in the metro Denver area, screen time on computers, phones, and video games increased dramatically. And now we know the rate of childhood myopia did as well. Dr. Jacobs was recently interviewed about the pandemic and its effects on your children by the Highlands Ranch Herald and 9News regarding the rise and treatment of myopia. A misperception many parents have is that their child will tell them if they are having vision issues. In fact, many children don’t realize they have blurry distance vision until they are already fairly myopic. Dr. Jacobs also wrote an article about childhood myopia recently for Colorado Parent Magazine.

Ensure your child is set up for success this school year by booking an eye exam at our office. We specialize in seeing children, and offer several treatments that can slow down or even stop the progression of myopia in children. Your child now has options other than just getting stronger glasses or contact lenses every year.

Book your child’s appointment today by calling 720-664-8369 or by booking online.

Does Myopia Get Worse With Age?

Many parents who come into our practices consider their children’s myopia as a simple vision problem that needs correction. Each time the child needs a higher prescription, they just “fix” it by buying them a new pair of glasses.

What many parents don’t realize is that myopia can actually harm a child’s eyes and vision, especially as the child ages.

Below, we’ll explain what myopia is, how it progresses with age, and why parents should take action now to preserve their children’s gift of sight for the future.

What is Myopia?

Myopia is an eye disease where the eyeball grows too long, leading light to be focused in front of the retina instead of directly on it. This causes distant objects to appear blurry.

Because the eye elongates and grows with the rest of the body, naturally, it stops elongating once the rest of the body stops growing in early adulthood. This also means there may be times in a child’s development where they experience growth spurts—suddenly requiring a higher prescription.

Myopia typically starts in childhood and progresses throughout the school-age years, usually stabilizing around their late teens.

While scientists don’t fully understand all the causes of myopia, we know that genetics and certain environmental factors play a key role in its development and progression.

Why Should Parents Care About Myopia Progression?

Myopic children are at a higher risk of developing sight-threatening diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, retinal detachment, and macular degeneration later in life. 

Children with rapidly progressing myopia are even more prone to developing these diseases.

So why wait for your child’s myopia to worsen before seeking treatment? Slowing myopia early on can make all the difference to your child’s eye health as they age.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Optometry and Vision Science found a jarring statistic about myopia progression that all parents should be aware of. The researchers discovered that a 1 diopter change in a child’s prescription was associated with a 67% increase in developing myopic maculopathy (myopic macular degeneration) — a leading cause of irreversible visual impairment and blindness.

The same study also noted that when parents provided their children with myopia management, the risks of developing myopic maculopathy fell by 40%.

Can Myopia Progression Be Slowed?

Yes! It certainly can be slowed, and even halted.

At Treehouse Eyes, we offer the latest and most effective treatments for childhood myopia so that every one of our patients receives the best shot at lifelong healthy vision.

Our optometric team will meet with you and your child to determine the most suitable treatment for your child’s eyes and lifestyle.

Why wait? It’s never too early to start treating myopia. To schedule your child’s myopia eye consultation, call us today!

Has COVID-19 Impacted Your Child’s Eyes?

Is your child squinting more than usual? Is she or he having difficulty reading or seeing distant objects, even if they already wear glasses or have recently had an eye exam?

Optometrists throughout the country are seeing more cases of myopia than ever before due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The drastic increase in indoor and screen time associated with virtual classrooms is taking a toll on children’s eyes, resulting in what optometrists are calling “quarantine myopia”.
How Has the COVID-19 Lockdown Contributed To Myopia?

COVID-19 has impacted the lives of many, whether through infection or as a result of the ripple effect of this pandemic, such as lockdowns. The periodic school shutdowns are causing children to spend significantly more hours a day inside and in front of their screens. It is, therefore, no coincidence that eye doctors have been detecting a steep rise in myopia cases during this period.

But First, What Is Myopia?

Myopia is a disease where the eye grows too long, causing light to be focused at the front of the retina instead of directly on it. This results in blurred vision when looking at a distant object. Myopia typically starts in childhood and progresses throughout school age years, meaning a child’s vision continues to deteriorate as their eye grows too long.

While the causes of myopia are not yet fully understood, we now know that genetics and certain environmental factors play a significant role in its development. Doing excessive near work activities, like spending hours on a computer or other digital device, and staying indoors has been linked to the development or progression of myopia in children.

A recent study observed the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown on over 120,000 Chinese children and found that home confinement had considerably increased myopia levels in those aged 6-8. These children had a diopter change of 0.3 during the lockdown. In other words, their vision significantly deteriorated during the lockdown.

When children have myopia, it’s not just an inconvenience. It can also put them at risk of developing serious, sight-threatening eye diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and retinal detachment later in life. That’s why so many parents choose myopia management to protect their children’s long-term vision and eye health.

Can Myopia Be Treated?

Yes, it most definitely can! At Treehouse Eyes, we’re committed to ensuring the best possible outcome for your child’s visual and ocular health. That means using the best, most effective treatments to slow or even halt your child’s myopia progression.

We work with you and your child to find the most suitable, convenient, and comfortable myopia treatment based on your child’s needs and lifestyle.

It’s never too early to start treating your child’s myopia. Offer your child the gift of sight for the long term by finding the nearest provider to you: treehouseeyes.com/make-an-appointment

FDA- Approved MiSight Contact Lenses Do Wonders in Reducing Myopia Progression!

If there is one thing that eye health professionals agree on, it’s that myopia is an eye disease of growing proportions.

Having myopia as a child significantly increases the risk of developing sight-threatening conditions like macular degeneration,, glaucoma, and retinal detachment later in life. Even children with low levels of myopia have a greater risk of glaucoma and retinal detachment compared to their non-myopic counterparts.

The good news is that slowing down the progression of myopia can drastically lower the risks of developing eye disease later in life. Innovative products like MiSight 1-day contact lenses help ensure a healthier future for myopic children.

As part of the Treehouse Eyes network, we are proud to be one of the first practices in the country to be certified to fit MiSight 1-day contact lenses for myopia treatment, and be part of the Brilliant Futures Myopia Management Program.

CooperVision, which manufactures MiSight 1-day lenses, calls Brilliant Futures “the new standard of care” for children with myopia. “It provides inclusive practice, child and parent support to create the optimal environment for compliance, satisfaction, clinical outcomes and long-term loyalty, all via a comprehensive management program featuring MiSight 1-day daily disposable contact lenses.”

What are MiSight 1-Day Contact Lenses?

MiSight 1-day contact lenses are soft lenses that are worn daily and disposed of after each use. A fresh pair of contacts are placed into the eyes every morning to provide the child with crisp and clear vision while also slowing the eye’s elongation — the source of progressive myopia.

These contacts are safe and easy for children to use since they require almost no maintenance.

Four different clinical trials were conducted to study the safety and effectiveness of MiSight lenses over a 3-year span; 135 children between the ages of 8-12 participated in the trials. Those who wore MiSight contacts experienced considerably less myopia progression than  those who wore conventional soft contact lenses.

MiSight 1-Day Contact Lenses: A Popular Choice

CooperVision recently partnered with Sarah Michelle Gellar, a well-known American actress, entrepreneur and producer, to help spread awareness about the importance of myopia management and annual eye exams for myopic children.

The need for myopia management hit home for Gellar, who is myopic herself and has a child with myopia. “My husband and I are both nearsighted and our myopia has continued to worsen over time. We want our kids to have a chance for better vision and lower their risk for future eye health issues” explains Gellar.

While regular eyeglasses or contacts help children see a whiteboard or tennis ball, “MiSight 1-day lenses offer children the benefits of clear vision while slowing myopia progression during their growing years. That is why I am thrilled to be partnering with CooperVision on this campaign,” Gellar says.

Moreover, many parents are pleased to learn that MiSight 1-day contact lenses are FDA approved. In November 2019, the lenses received FDA approval to slow myopia progression in children who are 8-12 years old at the time of their first fitting — making MiSight 1-day contact lenses the only FDA approved soft contact lenses for myopia management!

We Are Proud to Be Part of the Myopia Management Movement

In addition to MiSight, our highly trained and experienced doctors can offer other treatment options to manage childhood myopia, including specialized overnight-wear contact lenses and prescription eye drops.

Contact us today to make an appointment for a myopia consultation for your child. We’ll evaluate your child’s eyes and vision and recommend a personalized treatment plan that will work best for your child and your family.

Let us help ensure a clear and bright future for your child!

Don’t Forget UV Protection This Winter

Most people think of sunglasses as summer gear, but in some ways, it’s even more important to wear sunglasses in certain winter conditions than in the warm summer months.

 

Thanks to public awareness campaigns about the risks of skin cancer, more people are aware that UV rays and intense sunlight are bad for our skin. Sunblock, clothing, and shade are regularly used to protect us. Do you know that UV rays are damaging to our eyes, too?

Prolonged UV exposure raises risks for:

  • Cataracts
  • Macular Degeneration
  • Pingueculae
  • Pterygia
  • Photokeratitis

 

In the warmer months, we think about protection from the sun because we expose so much skin and can experience sunburns when we’re not covered. In the winter, however, people are colder, and bundled up, so they don’t think of the sun as a risk. This is a problem because snow can reflect 80% of UV rays! That means you’re experiencing normal sunlight from being outside, and harsh glares from white surfaces.

 

The fatiguing effects of winter glares become apparent usually when doing outdoor activities like skiing, snowboarding, or sledding, but driving in bright wintry conditions can also be damaging and dangerous. It’s important to be protected year-round!

 

When looking for appropriate winter sunwear, remember:

 

  • Good sunglasses offer UV protection, so always be sure to check that they block 100% UVA/UVB rays.
  • Larger glasses are in style, which is great because the bigger lens protects more of your eyes and the skin around your eyes from UV damage. Look for a large lens and wraparound style.
  • Don’t worry about the color or darkness of the lens. Those things can vary while still providing adequate UV protection. Check the label for that information, or speak to an optician.
  • Remember, polarization is for more than fishermen! Especially in the winter months when ice and snow can cause harsh glares, polarization can be a big help.
  • Specialty eyewear exists for all of your favorite winter sports. Be sure your eyes are protected from the sun and safe during sports.

 

Talk to us if you have any questions about your UV exposure or any specialty eyewear you need to live your active winter lifestyle!

Corrective Eye Surgery Basics

Corrective eye surgery can address a number of eye problems. Most people have heard of laser eye surgery to eliminate the need for prescription glasses. As the procedure has gotten easier and less expensive, more people are opting for things like LASIK and telling their friends about the results.

 

LASIK

LASIK is the most popular refractive surgery. Because healing time is fast, many people check to see if they are good candidates for LASIK before considering other options. With LASIK, a flap is made on the front of the cornea. A laser is then used to remove some corneal tissue and smooth irregularities in the surface of the lens. The cornea can be made flatter or more rounded to cure nearsightedness or farsightedness, as well as astigmatism.

 

Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK)

Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) was the first laser eye surgery that became widely available for vision correction. It may help people who are nearsighted, farsighted, or have astigmatism. PRK is similar to LASIK, but the main difference is that the procedure does not involve cutting a flap on the surface of the eye to resurface the lens. With PRK, the epithelium covering on the eye is essentially buffed away, and the surface of the cornea is reshaped using an excimer laser. This means the protective covering on the front of the eye has to heal which creates a longer healing process for PRK than some other procedures.

 

LASEK

LASEK is a corrective eye surgery that can also address myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. LASEK reshapes the front of the cornea with a specialized laser procedure, eliminating the need for glasses in some patients. The thin covering on the front of the eye is not entirely removed like with PRK. Instead, an even thinner flap than what LASIK uses is created and then replaced after the procedure to act as a natural bandage. Some people who cannot get LASIK are instead candidates for LASEK because it can be performed on someone with a thinner cornea.

 

Cataract Surgery

Cataract surgery is also considered corrective eye surgery. For this type of surgery, the cloudy lens of an eye with a cataract is removed and an artificial lens is replaced. Vision is then made clear again, which often reduces the patient’s need for glasses. The procedure is very common and considered one of the safest and most effective corrective eye surgeries. As our population ages, instances of cataracts surgery are on the rise and continue to provide great results.

 

The different kinds of corrective eye surgeries have their benefits and possible side effects. Make sure that you consult a qualified eye doctor if you have questions about these procedures.

What is Perfect Vision?

It’s generally assumed that “20/20” is perfect vision, but what does this mean?

 

Visual acuity is the term used to describe the sharpness of your vision. When doctors do a visual acuity test, they have you view something (usually the Snellen eye chart of letters) from a standard distance and tell them what you see.

 

One of the lines on the typical eye chart has letters that are a size which has been deemed “20/20 visual acuity,” meaning that at 20 feet, most people can accurately read those characters. This is the standard, so at 20 feet, you read them as well as someone at 20 feet should be able to. It is possible for some people to read smaller letters that fall on lines below. This would be 20/15 or 20/10 visual acuity, meaning at 20 feet, you read letters that most people can only read at 10 or 15 feet. Great!

 

For people who have less visual acuity, they may be 20/40 or 20/60. The largest letter on the chart (an E on most Snellen charts) corresponds to 20/200 vision. If someone cannot distinguish that letter without assistance, they are considered legally blind.

 

Did you know the 20-foot measurement isn’t used everywhere? In some countries, they use 6 meters as the standard viewing distance.

 

Visual acuity of 20/20 is considered “perfect vision” because no aids are required to see better, but people can have better than 20/20 vision. Many young people are able to see letters smaller than the general “20/20” size. Even people who know that they see 20/20 or better, but feel that other aspects of their vision are lacking have options for improvement.

 

Some people who can pass a visual acuity test sufficiently may still have what we refer to as “high-order aberrations.” Low-order aberrations are familiar to most people as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism, but high-order aberrations are less well-known. The eye doctor may find that you have coma, spherical aberration, or trefoil. These can produce symptoms including bad night vision, double vision, starbursts or halos, glare, or blurring.

 

Options exist for people with high-order aberrations who would like sharper vision. Gas permeable (GP) contact lenses are rigid lenses that may improve your vision better than glasses or soft contacts can. There are also laser vision correction surgeries that can address some eye irregularities leading to various types of eyesight problems.

 

Of course, if you want to know your visual acuity, a comprehensive eye exam is the best way to assess your vision. You can speak to the doctor about how well you’re seeing now, and what options are available to help you get 20/20 vision!

Eye Floaters, Flashers, and Spots

Eye doctors often get asked about small specs that appear to float through someone’s field of vision. Even very young people may notice on occasion a spot that appears when they look at a light, plain surface. The good news is that there is no reason to be alarmed!

 

Eye floaters are simply how we see differences in the gel or liquid in the back of our eyes. Typically, these spots appear as specks, circles, or stringy webs that drift through our field of vision. The reason that we see them is that the human brain works with the eyes to interpret light that enters through the front of the eye. In between the light entering the front of the eye and the structures inside the eye that create visual images there is a gel-like substance called vitreous or vitreous humor.

 

Vitreous is generally a thicker gel in young people and begins to change as we age. Through our youth, the gel generally remains consistent. With age, vitreous dissolves and starts to turn into a thinner liquid. Because some of the gel does not thin and remains in a gel state, you may be able to see small discrepancies in the consistency of the material. These are floaters.

 

Floaters like this are not anything to worry about, but other types of visual anomalies have different causes and may be something more serious. If you see an occasional floater, there’s no need to see the doctor. If you suddenly see lots of floaters, or if you are seeing flashes of light, contact your eye doctor right away. Sudden appearance of many floaters could mean that the vitreous is beginning to separate from your retina. This is a type of detachment and can lead to damage to the delicate retina which may cause permanent loss of vision.

 

Always keep in mind that any sudden changes to your vision could be serious and should be addressed with a medical professional right away.

Kids and Computer Vision Syndrome

Most of us remember being told not to sit too close to the TV because it would ruin our vision. Well, that may have been an exaggeration of the actual dangers of sitting too near a tube television, but new risks are at play when it comes to electronic screens and the eyes of our children.

 

Old tube televisions and things like handheld games relied on much different electronics and lights to power their screens in the early years. It wasn’t until much more recently that we have moved to bright, LED and plasma screens that use a lot of blue light to show unimaginably crisp images. Whereas sitting pretty close to one of those screens twenty years ago probably wasn’t a good idea, it’s likely that prolonged and extreme use of screens nowadays is more problematic.

 

We know that using a computer can improve school readiness and academic achievement. Children learn digital tools quickly, and have relatively little trouble using them for educational games, math, reading, and more. These things aid cognitive development when used appropriately, and will not harm your child’s vision.

 

The risks associated with using a digital screen come from prolonged use, improper ergonomics, and developmental problems caused by getting too much screen time instead of getting social interaction and physical activity.

 

Children’s eyes are more sensitive to bright light because they lack certain tints that we develop as we get older. As we age, our eyes take on a slightly yellowish tint that helps filter bright blue light. The sun is the largest source of bright blue light, but digital devices also rely on this kind of light to produce clear videos and graphics. This means that children who use a bright screen up close are naturally less protected than older people, and their eyes are more susceptible to damage. Over time, our risk for macular degeneration increases along with years of exposure to “high-energy visible light.”

 

When children use a digital device for long periods of time, they do not “flex” their eyes by focusing on distant objects, as well as looking in the near and intermediate fields. This causes eye strain. Additionally, sitting for too long and making repetitive movements with hands (like clicking a mouse or controller) or sitting in a position with bad posture or an unsupported upper body can lead to problems like carpal tunnel, muscle soreness, and poor physical development. Everyone knows that kids need time to burn off energy, build gross motor skills, and strengthen their muscles and bones through exercise and play. When they get too much time sitting down while indoors, other important activities like outdoor play, conversation, spatial reasoning, and other skills suffer.

 

To reduce your child’s risk of computer vision syndrome:

 

  • Limit their time on computers and devices
  • Prompt them to take breaks regularly (this is a good habit for many activities)
  • Make sure they are sitting in a comfortable, supported position
  • Opt for anti-glare protection on their eyewear to reduce eyestrain
  • Teach them to view digital screens at arm’s length and not too close