It is no longer surprising to see children as young as five years old wearing prescription or corrective eyeglasses. Myopia or nearsightedness is usually the main culprit.
“Nearsightedness affects school-age children and even babies,” shares Asian Eye Institute pediatric optometrist and orthoptist Dr. Gualberto Dato. “It is mostly genetic, so if one or both parents are nearsighted, their kids have the tendency to develop it, too.”
Having nearsightedness means that is it easier to see up close than far away. Dato explains: “The normal eyeball is perfectly round, like a ping-pong ball. With nearsightedness, the eyeball grows longer and is shaped like an egg. Because of this, the light rays that make up the images you see fall in front of, and not directly, on the retina. This makes objects at a distance look blurry.”
To treat nearsightedness in children, they can be prescribed corrective eyeglasses. If they can already be counted on to follow good hygiene practices, they may also wear contact lenses or Ortho-K contact lenses.
Ortho-K contact lenses are special contact lenses that are worn during sleep to temporarily reshape the cornea and provide clear vision for at least 24 hours.
Myopia control lenses
The most popular method though is to use corrective eyeglasses. As a result of research, myopia control lenses were developed to help control or manage nearsightedness.
“Children aged between five to 12 years old, especially those with progressive nearsightedness, may be recommended to wear these lenses. There are several designs, depending on the child’s eye condition,” Dato says.
The most common design creates a “nearsighted effect,” wherein the side or peripheral vision of the lens is mildly blurry. This signals the brain to stop making the eyeball grow longer because it is already longer than it should be.
Standard lenses, on the other hand, do the opposite. “These lenses create a ‘farsighted effect.’ To make the vision clearer, the lenses signal the brain to make the eyeball longer. This puts children at higher risk for high nearsightedness.
“The thing with high nearsightedness is that it puts a strain on the structure of the eyeball. Longer eyeballs are more likely to develop potentially blinding diseases like glaucoma or retinal problems like retinal detachment or tears. It can also be a factor in disqualifying them from getting laser correction or LASIK in the future.”
Parents, however, need not worry. “If detected early, vision problems in children can be managed or treated,” Dato says. “Make sure to bring them to a pediatric eye doctor every year even if they do not complain about having blurry vision. It also helps to be observant of their behavior. Poor school or athletic performance or frequent clumsiness could indicate a vision problem.”