More and more kids are developing myopia at a younger age. Myopia, which is also called nearsightedness, is the condition when a person can see things up close, but has more difficulty with objects that are farther away.

According to the National Eye Institute at the National Institutes of Health, it is possible that nearly half of the world will be myopic by the year 2050.

Caused by the lengthening of the eyeball, developing myopia can be a result of many factors. The most obvious of which are genetics. If one or both parents have nearsightedness, the chance of a child developing myopia increases, but that is not the sole contributing factor.

“Heredity does play a role, but it isn't the only one,” says Dr. Glen Steele, Professor of Pediatric Optometry at the Southern College of Optometry.

“While we don't know definitively why some children develop myopia, we have some suspicions,” says Steele, who specializes in vision care of infants and children. “There are some underlying contributors that we suspect help cause it.”

One such reason kids may be getting myopia more often? “Near point work,” Steele says. “My theory is related to the excessive amount of time that children use electronic devices. Not because they are electronic, per se, but because it is the intensity with which kids work at it. They need to be outside sometimes so they can work on shifting their vision from near to far. Some near point work is fine, but they also need to spend time doing activities outside.”

Dr. Andrew Morgenstern, Medical Director of Treehouse Eyes based in the D.C. area agrees. “This is the iPod generation,” he says. “Our eyes are built for distance and we have this sudden increase in inside, near point work. We need a balance for our eyes to function as they are supposed to.”

Treehouse Eyes focuses on treatment to help delay or slow the onset of myopia in children. “There are things that can be done, whether it is treatment at Treeshouse Eyes or things parents can do themselves at home,” Morgenstern says. “There is no doctor alive who will tell you that it's bad to get your kid outside and running around, and helping with myopia is just another good reason.”

Myopia isn't just an inconvenience, however. “There is no safe level of myopia,” Morgenstern says. “Myopia causes the eyeball to grow, which can contribute to glaucoma and retinal detachment, as well as other eye diseases later in life.”

Steele urges parents to seek a balance in their kids' lives. “Life is a balance, so I absolutely don't want to discourage the use of these devices,” says Steele. “That is where kids get their information, but too often they stay there and stay there and stay there.”

Both Steele and Morgenstern urge parents to have their children see an eye doctor before there are problems. “The younger the child, the more guidance in activities we can encourage parents to do,” says Steele. “We want kids moving. Get them outside, get them playing.”


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