Adults who had to wear glasses throughout childhood are often concerned about the causes of shortsightedness and whether their own children are doomed to being shortsighted, too.

The correct term for shortsightedness is Myopia. Shortsighted children can see clearly when things are up close but distant objects are blurry. It is a common eye problem that is easily remedied with glasses or contact lenses but permanent glasses or contact lenses are a concern for most parents and progression of myopia is an ongoing concern for optometrists.

What Causes Myopia In Children?

Although the exact reason why some children become shortsighted and others do not is not fully understood, it appears that heredity is a factor, but not the only one.

 If both parents are shortsighted, there is a greater risk that their children will be shortsighted too. But we are unable predict who will become shortsighted by simply looking at the family tree.

Our environment and activities play an important role. Focusing fatigue from excessive reading or computer use for extended periods can increase the risk for myopia in children. The percentage of children who develop shortsightedness is increasing sharply all over the world. There is compelling evidence that eyestrain and myopia are relatedSome research indicates that prolonged, repetitive eyestrain cannot only cause myopia, but can also make it progress. Studies have shown that myopia develops as an adaptation to prolonged near focusing. Straining the eyes with excessive up-close reading, even on digital devices can strain the eyes due to prolonged focusing. This makes the eyes more adapted for near objects and makes it harder to focus on distant objects and thus myopia develops. For most shortsighted children, myopia gradually worsens every year. They need a stronger correction year after year.

How To Reduce Your Child's Risk Of Myopia

Encourage your children to play outside. A number of studies concluded that outdoor activities have a significant protective effect on myopia risk among children that are not yet nearsighted and reduce the progression of myopia among nearsighted schoolchildren.

Poor posture and close working distance increases visual effort and eyestrain.  Your child should maintain a good reading and working distance at all times to limit visual effort.  Encourage regular breaks from sustained close work.

Make time to take your children for a functional vision exam when they present with symptoms of eyestrain or headaches. Eye discomfort, squinting and blurred vision when looking into the distance are all signs of myopia. Many children will not complain of blurry vision, as they have no means of comparison, their blurry vision is their ‘normal’ experience. Yearly check-ups are recommended for all school age children to identify myopic children and those at risk for developing myopia.

Take-Home Message

It's a great idea to encourage your children to spend more time outdoors and leave the cell phone and other electronic devices at home or in their pockets!

Doing so just might decrease their risk of becoming nearsighted — or slow the progression of their current level of myopia.