Nearsightedness common in children

If your child is squinting to see the whiteboard in school, or moving closer to the TV, the problem may be nearsightedness or myopia.

About 30% of American adults are nearsighted, meaning they can see things clearly up close, but objects in the distance appear blurry.

And eye doctors say the irreversible eye problem is becoming more common in children.

The main cause is hereditary: if parents are nearsighted, there’s a good chance their children will be, too.

But excessive screen time may play a role, too, along with too little exposure to sunlight.

Researchers don’t know for sure, but they say there is something about sun exposure that seems to help with eye development, and something about up-close time on screens that seems to hinder it.

Dr. Erin Stahl is a pediatric myopia specialist and a mother, who says screen-time is a reality for children.

“My kids are handed iPads at school,” Dr. Stahl says.  “They use it to do their homework at night.  So, screen-time isn’t going away.”

Since myopia is progressive, typically first appearing in childhood, Stahl says catching the problem early is key.

“Up until now, it’s always been treated with glasses, and, in children, it gets worse over time.”

Dr. Morgenstern treats nearsightedness in children with prescription eye drops or special contact lenses to help slow the progression of the disorder.

“The younger you are when you start to become nearsighted, the higher the likelihood of becoming more severely nearsighted later in life,” Morgenstern says.

“The incidence of myopia has increased 60% over the last 30 years,” says Dr. Stahl.

Both doctors says limiting screen time whenever possible is key, and so is promoting outside play.

Children typically get their eyes checked at 6 months, the age of three and then again as they enter the first grade.

If you notice your child is struggling to see things at a distance, get your child’s eyes checked.