MYOPIA IN CHILDREN GROWING AT ALARMING RATES
The majority (65%) of Australian parents (with children 0-17 years old) do not know what child myopia is and alarmingly, only 12% of parents recognise the health risk that their children might develop later in life from myopia. Myopia, or short-sightedness causes blurred distance vision, usually starts during childhood and typically progresses until a child stops growing. However, there are two main factors which can mean your child is more at risk of developing myopia: lifestyle and family history. To slow the progression of myopia and reduce longer term eye health issues, myopia needs to be managed. There are many evidence-based options now available that can slow the progression of myopia. High myopia is associated with eye health risks later in life so reducing the prevalence and impact of myopia and understanding influencing factors is critical.
Myopia is forecast to reach epidemic proportions globally. Alarmingly, increases in the global prevalence of myopia and high myopia (a refractive error*of at least -5.00D in either eye) mean that by 2020, it is estimated that 2 billion people worldwide will be affected.  By 2050, it is estimated that more than 50% of the world’s population will have myopia and 10% or almost 1 billion will have high myopia. 36% of Australians are predicted to be myopic by 2020 and by 2050, that number is set to increase to 55%.
Lifestyle: modern lifestyles may influence the development of myopia. These include:
- Low levels of outdoor activity and associated factors including:
- Low levels of light exposure
- Prolonged near tasks such as reading and gaming on portable devices
Family history: The likelihood of developing myopia, particularly high myopia increases when one or both parents are myopic.14 However, the exact link between a family history of myopia and development of childhood myopia remains uncertain.15
For parents who are concerned that their child might be myopic, or at risk of developing myopia, Abernethy Owens has this advice - The first step is to have your child’s eyes tested. If your child is diagnosed with myopia, it is important that you talk with your Optometrist about correcting the immediate sight issue, but importantly what can be done to slow progression of myopia. Being informed and having a discussion with your Optometrist around the best way to manage your child’s myopia is a critical first step.
For further information about child myopia talk to your Abernethy Owens Optometrist or book an appointment today. Additional useful information about myopia can be found at www.childmyopia.com
A recent survey looking at parental understanding and perceptions around child myopia in Australia shows:
- 76% of parents of children under 12 years old believe being prescribed glasses is the best course of action if a primary school age child is diagnosed with myopia. In fact, there are many treatment options that should be discussed when managing myopia.
- Almost half (49%) of Australian parents of children aged 17 years and under admit they do not know what causes myopia.
- Only 12% of parents know of the lifestyle factors that have an impact on child myopia (low levels of outdoor activity, low levels of light exposure, prolonged near tasks such as reading and gaming on portable devices).
- 31% of Australian kids (17 years and under) have never been to an Optometrist to have an eye test.
- 44% of children have not been to an Optometrist to have an eye test before their ninth birthday.
Additional useful information about myopia can be found at www.childmyopia.com
* Refractive error means that the shape of your eye does not bend light correctly, resulting in a blurred image. The main types of refractive errors are myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), presbyopia (loss of near vision with age) and astigmatism.
 CooperVision Australia and New Zealand: Child Myopia in Australia – consumer perceptions survey. Conducted by YouGovGalaxy August/September 2018 between Wednesday 29 August and Monday 3 September 2018. The sample comprised 1,003 parents of children at home aged 0-18 years.
 The impact of myopia and high myopia: Report of the Joint World Health Organization – Brien Holden Vision Institute Global Scientific Meeting on Myopia. University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. 16-18 March 2015
 Holden B; Fricke T; Wilson D; Jong M; Naidoo K; Sankaridurg P; Wong T; Naduvilath T; Resnikoff S. Global prevalence of myopia and high myopia and temporal trends from 2000 through
2050. American Academy of Ophthalmology 2016
 He M, Xiang F, Zeng Y et al. Effect of Time Spent Outdoors at School on the Development of Myopia Among Children in China: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA 2015; 314:1142-1148
 Read SA, Collins MJ, Vincent SJ. Light Exposure and Eye Growth in Childhood. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science 2015: 56(11):6779-6787
 Ip JM, Saw SM, Rose KA, Morgan IG, Kifley A, Wang JJ, Mitchell P. Role of Near Work in Myopia: Findings in a Sample of Australian School Children. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science 2008:49(7):2903-2910
14 Lim LT, Gong Y, Ah-Kee EY, Xiao G, Zhang X. Impact of parental history of myopia on the development of myopia in mainland China school-aged children. Ophthalmology and Eye Disease. 2014;6:31-5
15 Ip J, Huynh S, Robaei D, Rose K, Morgan I, Smith W, Kifley A, Mitchell P. Ethnic differences in the impact of parental myopia: Findings from a population-based study of 12-year old Australian children. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science. 2007:48:2520-2528
16 CooperVision Australia and New Zealand: Child Myopia in Australia – consumer perceptions survey. op.cit.