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How to recognise if your child is short-sighted

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Short-sightedness, also known as myopia, is a very common eye condition that makes it difficult to see objects in the distance. This often happens due to the shape of the eye, including the cornea or lens, which results in far-away objects appearing blurry or unfocused. You might have experienced it yourself, where you find yourself squinting to focus better on something in the distance.

Is short-sightedness (myopia) hereditary?

Known as a refractive error, short-sightedness in children can be caused by heredity. If both parents also suffer from short-sightedness or myopia, it is 7 times more likely that you will develop myopia as a child. However, there are other factors also at play such as environment and lifestyle, and by taking the right steps, you can reduce the effects of short-sightedness.

Myopia in children may appear around the ages of 6-7; if you can recognise the signs that your child is experiencing a problem with their vision, it can be incredibly helpful in the long run. 

Does your child have myopia?

While early myopia can appear as young as 6 years old, short-sightedness usually develops through the early teenage years. It will typically stabilise in the early 20s when the eye has stopped growing. However, young children may find it difficult to explain if they have a problem with their eyes, and may not even realise it in the first place.

While this may leave you feeling a little helpless, there is actually a lot you can do to minimise the impact of myopia on your children. 

You might notice changes in your child’s behaviour and as such, you may be able to detect whether myopia has started to develop. The main symptom of myopia is difficulty to see things far away, often combined with a headache or eye fatigue. 

Detecting myopia in children is usually noticed more by the parent or perhaps older siblings. For example, does your child sit close to the television, or do they often complain of headaches? You can also ask if they are able to see the board at school when they sit at the back of the classroom. If they answer yes to these questions, it could mean they are struggling with their eyesight. 

If you think your child might be short-sighted, you can carry out some simple activities to determine their vision. For example, standing at different distances with writing on a piece of paper to find out when it becomes difficult to read. 

You could also ask them whether they can see certain things clearly when out and about; turning into a fun activity can be a straightforward way of getting their attention, and understanding at what distance their eyesight becomes blurry.

By taking your child for regular eye examinations, it gives your optometrist the chance to identify any vision problems. You should consider taking them for an eye test when they start school, or if you begin to notice any difference in their behaviour.

Diagnosing short-sightedness in children

The exact reason for short-sightedness in children is not fully known, but there are certain factors that may increase their risk. Researchers have suggested that little outdoor exposure at a young age and long periods of time concentrating on close-up objects might increase the risk of becoming myopic. 

You can encourage your child to spend more time outdoors, or perhaps ensure they take breaks from activities such as reading or playing on a tablet. This could be a challenge in our digitally-driven world, but it could make a difference.

Short-sightedness can be diagnosed through a routine eye examination. If you notice any change in your child’s vision or behaviour, it is important to take them to visit an optometrist. 

Uncorrected myopia in children can sometimes lead to more serious eye conditions, but this is rare and more often than not, simple changes such as wearing the right glasses can provide the necessary treatment to manage short-sightedness.

There are different levels of myopia, which is measured in dioptres. Light myopia in children may appear between -0.25 and -3.00, while medium myopia often occurs when the measurement is between -3.00 and -6.00. High myopia is classified as anything above a measurement of -6.00.

Whatever the severity of myopia your child may have, it is easy to correct through wearing the right lenses. Glasses for short-sightedness are a very straightforward solution to help manage myopia.