Eyecan Logo

Myopia Awareness Week 23rd to 27th May

Responding to increasing rates of short-sightedness in children, Eye specialists and EYECAN are working together to raise awareness of proactive measures to protect against myopia.

Myopia, or shortsightedness, occurs when an image does not accurately focus on the back of the eye. Children who are short sighted typically have better near vision than distance vision (when uncorrected), which can cause problems whenever good distance vision is required, such as when playing outdoor games or when learning involves working from a board.

Rates of shortsightedness increase throughout childhood. In Western populations, the rate amongst under 5’s is between 1- 5%. In primary school children it increases to 9%, and in secondary school children it increases to approximately 30%. In the UK, in the last 50 years, the proportion of shortsighted children has more than doubled, with children who have 2 shortsighted parents reported as being 8 times more likely to have myopia than other youngsters.

However, there are proactive ways to prevent, or slow the progression of, shortsightedness in children. Increased outdoor activity is particularly important. As Gordon Bowler explains, “an extra 40 minutes outside a day, in addition to time spent outdoors at school, has been demonstrated to be protective against myopia. Ensuring children enjoy spending time outside helps youngsters to gain exposure to the bright outdoor light they need for healthy eye development. Walking to school, cycling, sport, and exploring the natural world all provide lasting benefits.

Although evidence is not as strong, some studies also suggest that doing less near work (including computer usage and reading time) can help young eyes develop healthily. This advice is especially pertinent at a time when the COVID -19 pandemic has resulted in increased indoor time and near work, leading to concerns of an ensuing impact on the rates and progression of myopia in children.