As the number of children with myopia keeps growing at an epidemic rate, and impacting on an increasing proportion of younger children, a global survey has shown that one in four parents don’t know the meaning of the term, myopia, or the seriousness of the impact it can have on their children’s eyes and lives. Instead, they are accepting the common and less threatening description of “shortsightedness” for a far bigger and wider threat than that name suggests, according to Australian behavioural optometrist Jacqueline Gattegno.

Like a growing number of optometrists, she voices concern that the shortsightedness label constantly attached to information regarding the refractive error is possibly sugarcoating the very serious threat myopia holds in terms of its impact on people’s eyes and lives, and that this might lead to many children going through school and life either without knowing they are myopic, or being deprived access to ways to manage or control its progression.

Myopia Does More Damage Than Causing a Blur

Gattegno says that shortsightedness is commonly interpreted as just affecting distance vision to the extent that anything not close-by is seen as a blur, and that it requires no more treatment or control than a pair of single vision glasses that might help remove the blur in their distance vision. It is critical to understand that in progressive myopia, the eyeball actually elongates exponentially. This increases the risk of future eye health conditions, including cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachments and, age-related blindness.

She says this treatment was still considered adequate before the number of myopics started an upward curve a few decades ago, and rose still further this century. This upward curve led eye doctors and researchers to paying closer attention to the incurable and mysterious eye problem and the realisation that myopia involved a lot more than blurry distance vision. With it being identified as being linked to serious vision problems, the focus and variety of new ways to manage it have started to grow. Meanwhile the numbers on the curve have kept soaring at a rate which suggests every second person globally could be myopic by 2050 if it is not controlled.

The Myopia Threat

Depending on what level of myopia a child has, children can be looking at a future which is more than just blurred, Gattegno says. If it progresses into high myopia (and even if it stays at mild or moderate levels), it can affect their lives considerably by changing the way they see the world around them and how to react to it, and it may even take away their sight completely as they get older.

She says that in the short term, myopia can lead to problems with playing sport, learning, and behaviour at school, as well as impacting to a certain extent on other daily activities. It may also affect their self-image and feelings about their place in the world. But however serious these effects are, bigger threats can await them if the progression of myopia is not controlled. In later years they may be faced with the most destructive eye impairments, cataracts, glaucoma, non-age-related macular degeneration, and retinal detachment. 

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For more information on eye health, visual skills and therapy, or to book an appointment, visit the Smart Vision website: Optometrists Sydney: Optometry Services For Children and Adults | Smart Vision; for specific information about Myopia treatment and prevention visit Myopia Prevention: Solutions, Control And Treatment In Sydney; and for detailed information about Myopia Treatment visit Orthokeratology In Sydney: The Non Surgical Alternative.

To book an appointment for a thorough eye check-up, click here or Call the Bondi clinic on (02) 9365 5047 or the Mosman clinic on (02) 9969 1600.

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