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The Connection Between Near Work And Myopia

The steady rise of myopia (nearsightedness) in children around the globe may be alarming—but does it really come as a surprise?

Nowadays, children are spending more time engaging in near work through the use of digital devices and computers, which experts believe, is the driving force behind the myopia pandemic.

Fortunately, with myopia management, even a child that spends most of the time focusing on near objects can mitigate their risk of developing future eye problems.

Below, we’ll explain what myopia is, how near work contributes to the onset and progression of myopia and why parents should act now to protect their children’s vision for the future.

What Is Myopia?

Myopia occurs when light entering the eye is focused in front of the retina instead of directly on the retina’s surface. This could be due to the eyeball being too long or the focusing power too high.

Myopia worsens when the eye grows longer, causing the retina to stretch and strain. This makes the eye prone to serious diseases like macular degeneration, glaucoma, retinal detachment and diabetic retinopathy later in life.

Several factors may contribute to myopia’s onset and progression, including genetics, ethnicity, not spending enough time outdoors and near work.

What’s Considered Near Work?

Near work is defined as any activity that requires focusing on objects within arm’s reach from the eyes: 16-20 in./40-50 cm or closer. Examples include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Reading, especially with focused concentration
  • Writing
  • Screen use (tablet, computer, smartphone, etc.)
  • Watching TV or video games from a close distance
  • Playing certain musical instruments (for example, looking at piano keys or reading sheet music)

How Does Near Work Contribute to Myopia?

Numerous studies have assessed the relationship between near work and myopia. A systematic review of 27 such studies found a 2% increased chance of developing myopia with every diopter-hour of near work time per week.

A diopter-hour is a term used in research to measure the time spent on near work and how it relates to myopia. For example, one diopter-hour spent reading is given more weight than multiple hours spent staring at a computer screen at an intermediate distance.

Additional research indicates that taking regular breaks while doing near work may have a positive effect on myopia. Children who engaged in continuous and focused reading had higher levels of myopia than groups of children who took frequent breaks, even if they read for the same amount of time overall.

According to several studies, children who play outdoors in the sunshine have a reduced risk of myopia and myopia progression. In fact, researchers are now investigating whether looking at faraway objects like a moving ball plays a role.

That said, it’s important to note that near work isn’t the only myopia risk factor.

How Myopia Management Can Help

This information isn’t meant to scare parents into removing digital devices from the home, but rather to encourage a balanced lifestyle for the whole family.

Myopia management can significantly reduce your child’s risk of developing serious eye disease later in life, so why wait? The earlier they start, the greater their chance of success. At Visualeyes Optometry, we provide the latest in myopia control to offer the best possible outcome for our young patients. Myopia treatments include multifocal contact lenses, orthokeratology (ortho-k) and atropine eye drops.

During your child’s myopia consultation, we’ll ask about your child’s lifestyle to determine which treatment option best suits them. We encourage our patients to be honest when it comes to how much time they spend engaged in near work, as it gives us a better understanding of their visual needs.

Myopia management is suitable for children aged 8-12 with any level of myopia, or those who are at risk of becoming nearsighted (if both parents are shortsighted, for example).

To schedule your child’s myopia consultation, contact Visualeyes Optometry today!

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Dry Eye And Myopia Management

All parents considering myopia management for their children want to know that the treatments are safe, comfortable and effective. One particular concern is whether myopia treatments could affect their child’s dry eye syndrome.

Can a child with dry eye symptoms still be a candidate for each of the myopia management treatments? Is there a chance the myopia treatments could worsen a child’s dry eye symptoms? Or perhaps improve them?

There is much to consider, and your optometrist will carefully treat each case on an individual basis.

Below, we’ll explain what dry eye syndrome (DES) is and how it may relate to myopia management.

A Brief Overview of Dry Eye Syndrome

DES is a chronic lack of ocular hydration due to insufficient tears or an imbalance in the components that make up the tears (oil, mucus and water).

Certain health conditions, medications, weather conditions, aging, allergies, nutritional deficiencies, and excessive screen time can all contribute to the onset and severity of DES.

Common signs and symptoms of DES include:

  • Red, irritated eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Stinging or burning eyes
  • Grittiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Stringy mucus around the eyes
  • Frequent eye rubbing

DES can be successfully treated in a number of ways, including artificial tears, medicated eye drops, nutritional supplements and by implementing proper eyelid hygiene, like cleaning the eyelids and regions adjacent to the eyes daily. Your eye doctor will prescribe the treatment that targets the underlying cause of your condition.

What Puts Children and Teens at Risk of Developing DES?

Although children have a lower risk of developing DES than adults, they can still suffer from its painful and irritating symptoms. Some experts believe that dry eye syndrome is underdiagnosed in children because they may lack the verbal skills to describe their discomfort.

Risk factors for a child/adolescent developing DES are:

  • Allergies
  • Certain medications (acne medication, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, antihistamines)
  • Certain health conditions (blepharitis, herpes simplex viruses, evaporative eye disease, certain neurological disorders, diabetes, inflammatory conditions)
  • Excessive screen time (people blink less when staring at a screen
  • Nutritional deficiencies

If any of the above factors relate to your child, discuss them with your child’s optometrist before deciding on a particular myopia management treatment.

Myopia Management Options and DES

Multifocal Contact Lenses

These lenses are worn during the day and are usually discarded every night. Children naturally produce more oil in their tears and have a higher tear volume, making contact lenses more comfortable to wear and reducing the risk of DES symptoms.

Some research suggests that children with ocular allergies can actually benefit from wearing contact lenses, as the lens creates a barrier between the eye’s surface and airborne allergens.

However, children with seasonal allergies who regularly take antihistamines may be prone to DES due to the anticholinergic effects of the medicine that inhibit lacrimal gland functioning and reduce the child’s tear volume.

If children experience mild discomfort with daytime lens wear, they may find relief using lubricating eye drops.

Ortho-K Lenses

Ortho-k lenses (also called ‘orthokeratology’), are rigid gas-permeable contact lenses that are worn overnight during sleep. These lenses gently and safely change the shape of the cornea, so children don’t need to wear glasses or contacts during the day. They are removed in the morning and leave the child with crisp and clear vision.

Ortho-k is a fine choice for children who can’t wear daytime lenses due to allergies, DES, or other eye irritations. They are also great for children and teens who participate in sports and other physical activities since no daytime eyewear is required.

Atropine Eye Drops

These medicated eye drops are placed into the eyes once per day and have been shown to effectively slow childhood myopia progression.

Atropine eye drops usually contain preservatives that can cause eye irritation and dryness. However, the low-dose atropine drops prescribed to children have no clinically significant effect on the eyes with regards to DES.

If Your Child Has Myopia, We Can Help!

The bottom line is that even a child with sensitive eyes or DES can still benefit from myopia management treatments. Your optometrist will guide you on what options are the safest, most comfortable and convenient for you and your child.

If your child has myopia or is at risk of developing it, don’t wait until it’s too late. Halt their myopia now, and they’ll thank you later.

To schedule your child’s myopia consultation, call Visualeyes Optometry today!

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