Children’s Eye Health Doesn’t Receive the Attention It Needs
Most people tend to think of older individuals when they think about eye health and vision issues. That makes sense. However, there has been a rather concerning growth in the level of vision issues in young children over the past decades. Myopia continues to become more and more prevalent among children ages 7-17, and the rate at which it is increasing is alarming.
Roughly 33% of Americans have myopia with more across the world being myopic. Known myopia researcher, Jeffrey Cooper, OD, reports that the prevalence of myopia in young American adults has dramatically increased from 25% in 1971 to 1972 to above 41% over the years of 1999 to 2004. Genetics and environmental factors cannot merely explain this increasing rate of myopia.
This alarming increase in myopia in young people has shed a light on how poor gatekeeping has been in protecting and maintaining children’s eye health.
What is Myopia?
Myopia is also known as nearsightedness. It is characterized when your natural and uncorrected vision allows you to see things near your eyes but fails to let you see objects further away.
An abnormal eye length causes this. Your eyeball has grown too long, causing the light to focus before it reaches your retina. For images to appear clear, the light needs to be focused directly on the retina, which transforms the light into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain through the nervous system for interpretation.
Statistics of Poor Gatekeeping
Unfortunately, children’s eye health has not been made a priority. Children who have undiagnosed and untreated vision problems grow up to become adults with the same issues. A failure to recognize these disorders leads to issues in their cognitive development, learning abilities, self-esteem, academic performance, and more.
Important facts to know include:
- Myopia begins when children are about 6 years old and slows down when they reach 16.
- Only 7% of young children get a complete comprehensive eye exam before 1st grade
- 25% have a vision condition that affects their learning ability
- 66% of young children do not receive any preventive vision care, which includes simple screenings, by the time they reach 1st
- Simple screenings received at school only detect 5% of vision problems, and nearly 67% of those who fail these screenings receive no follow-up exams from an eye doctor.
- By the time they graduate high school, only 50% have received a comprehensive eye exam.
- Nearly 7.5 million children with visual impairments receive no treatment every year.
It has been well documented that 80% of what children learn comes from their ability to visually process information. However, children’s eye health has still not received a high priority.
Causes of Myopia
Myopia continues to become more and more prevalent in young children and at an increasing rate. Genetics and environmental factors can no longer explain this increase by themselves. While these do hold some weight in determining whether a child will have myopia, many researchers are pointing out other causes such as:
- Increase in activities requiring close focus.
- Increase in use of mobile devices, including smartphone, tablets, and more.
- Less time spent doing outdoor activities.
Unfortunately, it has become accepted when considering myopia management that you cannot fully stop the progression of myopia. However, there are ways you can slow down the rate at which your myopia does progress. Some of these include:
- Atropine Eye Drops
- Multifocal Contact Lenses
- Multifocal or bifocal eyeglasses
Some methods are more effective than others, but that is up to you and your eye doctor to discuss and test out.
Myopia continues to be an increasing problem for young children. Unfortunately, these children hardly receive the treatment they need to correct their vision with many receiving no diagnosis. It is beyond time to make children’s eye health a priority. They need their vision to succeed in school. Without it, it can lead to several consequences. To learn more about myopia and how to protect children’s eye health, contact First Eye Care McKinney.