Shortsightedness (or myopia) is an eye focusing disorder is estimated to affect over 1.6 billion people worldwide. Myopic people see near objects clearly, but distant objects appear blurry. The number of people suffering from myopia is increasing rapidly as children are spending more time on computers, watching television, or reading books, and less time involved in outdoor play.
After focusing on close-up objects for extended periods, the focusing muscles in the eyes lock up. This results in the eyes becoming more and more elongated. Shortsightedness occurs when the eyes become overly elongated.
For countless years, progressive myopia was a source of frustration for both optometrists and parents. The yearly ritual of finding an increase in the minus prescription for school-aged patients is not enjoyable. As their uncorrected distance vision decreases, their ability to function without correction diminishes.
However, recent research has shown that it is possible to slow down, and in many cases, stop children from becoming more shortsighted. Myopia prevention methods include vision therapy, the use of reading glasses, and increased time spent outdoors.
Orthokeratology is also a very effective technique for myopia control. Corneal reshaping contact lenses are worn at night to modify the shape of the cornea. Then, when the lenses are removed in the morning, the cornea that was reshaped while sleeping provides clear vision all day without the need of glasses or contact lenses.
What you can do at home to stop or slow the progression of myopia:
- Always wear your prescription reading glasses when viewing anything within your arm’s length or closer. This includes computers and tablets.
- Viewing distance (the distance between your eyes and the screen/book) should never be closer than the distance from your elbow to your fist when your fist is placed on your chin.
- Ensure good lighting when reading, using the computer and watching TV. Dark rooms are never a good idea.
- Two light sources are recommended when reading; a room light and a direct light on the page or task.
- Avoid close viewing for extended periods of time. After every page or 5 minutes spent looking at a page or screen, remember to look out a window and defocus.
- Give your eyes a break. Children should have a break every 15 minutes. 30 minutes is recommended for teenagers.
- Balance is key. In an ideal world, you should spend equal amounts of time outdoors using peripheral vision as indoors using central vision. Sports such as netball and soccer are great for promoting this balance. New research shows that children should spend a minimum of 80 minutes outdoors in the daylight every single day.
- Read globally. When reading and using the computer, try to look for “less detail”. Be aware of everything else peripherally around the book.
- Avoid screens. Minimise or eliminate computer, phone and tablet use completely.
- Complete your maintenance vision therapy as prescribed by your behavioural optometrist.