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  • Writer's pictureWillow Eye Clinic

Why is Nearsightedness Becoming So Common in Kids?

Updated: Jun 20

Myopia control has been a recent hot topic in the eye care industry. With more than half of the world's population expected to be nearsighted by 2030, why is it becoming so prevalent, and what can we do right now to slow this increase?

illustration of upward trend of number of people who are nearsighted

There are a few different theories regarding the development of nearsightedness in children. The two most interesting hypotheses I find are the increase in near work activity and the decrease in outdoor time during the day.

When you are looking at objects up close, you are missing the peripheral blur and peripheral decrease in contrast that you would experience otherwise when looking far away, since up close the majority of the vision in your field of view would be in focus and high contrast. Peripheral defocus myopia control lenses (i.e., MiYOSMART, Stellest, and Myocare) as well as the Diffusion Optics Technology (known as SightGlass in the U.S., Misight Spectacle lenses in Canada, and 控优点 by Nikon in China) are based on this theory as to why they are effective in reducing myopic growth.

Animal studies have shown that light is crucial to the proper development of vision after birth. Thinking back to when I was a young child, I spent most of my time playing outside after school because there was no such a thing as PlayStation or YouTube at the time. But now my son, being just a 4-year-old, already has more than 2 years of YouTube experience. If you ask him if he wants to go play outside or watch TV, TV is always going to be the more interesting choice for him.

Watching TV is a possible trigger for myopia and myopia progression

I don't think the best option is to avoid electronics altogether for kids nowadays but rather to find a way to coexist and find ways to counteract the myopia-generating effect. Routine monitoring and frequent follow-ups are especially important in children who are the most at risk of developing myopia. I am very lucky to be able to frequently monitor my son’s hyperopic reserve and axial length at the office. 

Not every child has a mom who is an optometrist, but you can still take advantage of an annually covered OHIP eye exam for those 19 years of age and under. It is recommended by the Canadian Association of Optometrists that children get their first eye exam between 6 and 9 months of age.

In the next blog, I will discuss what tests we can perform to see if a child is at a high risk of myopia and, if they are already myopic, who is likely to progress quickly. Stay tuned!

Written by Dr. Sandy Zhu

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