Understanding nearsightedness in children

Technology | 3 Dec 2019

Nearsightedness, or myopia, is a condition in which you can see objects that are near to you clearly, but objects farther away are blurry.

Nearsightedness happens when the cornea - the clear front surface of your eye - is curved too much or when your eye is longer than normal. That causes light coming into your eye to be focused in front of the retina at the back of your eye instead of directly on the retina. The result is blurry vision.

Many children develop nearsightedness during the early elementary school years, often around ages seven or eight. The condition usually worsens throughout the teenage years as a child grows.

An increase in nearsightedness often is most rapid during early adolescence, around the ages of 11 to 13. It tends to slow and then stabilize by the late teens or early 20s.

It is uncommon for changing eyesight to be a symptom of another underlying medical condition.

Some rare genetic disorders may be associated with nearsightedness. But in almost all cases, those conditions have other signs and symptoms that accompany the changes in vision.

Nearsightedness typically does not lead to other eye conditions or raise a child's risk of additional eye problems, except in rare situations, such as the development of extreme nearsightedness. Fortunately, nearsightedness can be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses.

To keep a child's prescription up to date, it is important to have regular eye exams - especially during the years when eyesight is changing quickly.

Timely exams can detect vision changes promptly so the prescription can be adjusted when needed.

Nearsightedness can also be treated with laser surgery of the cornea, but that approach generally is not recommended for children. Recent research has suggested that using eye drops with the medication atropine may slow the progression of nearsightedness. Healthcare providers now use atropine for moderate levels of nearsightedness.

If you are worried about your child's condition, have a detailed conversation with their optometrist about your concerns. If you still are worried or have additional concerns after that conversation, then it may be time to seek a second opinion or consider another provider.

An eye care professional trained and experienced in evaluating children - either an optometrist or an ophthalmologist - should be able to provide a thorough eye exam and offer clear information about a child's eye health.

Mayo Clinic News Network

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