What is Myopia?
The scientific term for nearsightedness is “myopia”. If you are nearsighted you see well at close range and see blurry far away. This blurred vision is because your eye grows in (axial) length so much that the image you are looking at is no longer depicted on the retina but in front of it. You then need a correction with a negative strength (minus strength) to regain sharp vision. Are you curious about what you see when you’re nearsighted? Experience it for yourself with the Vision Simulator!
Did you know?
Nearsightedness (myopia) is becoming more common and at an increasingly younger age. The degree of myopia is also becoming more extreme. Researchers are even speaking of a myopia epidemic. Ordinary glasses do not help, as they do not counteract the risk of exacerbation.1
Nearsightedness in itself does not have to be dangerous. However, myopia is often highly progressive, especially in young people. The greatest progression usually occurs between the ages of 6 and 17 years of age.5 This group is at higher risk of becoming highly myopic. The problems of high myopia:6
Accelerated cataract formation: a clouding of the eye’s lens that makes vision less sharp. Without treatment, this can lead to severe impaired vision.
Increased risk of glaucoma: increased eye pressure that damages the optic nerve. With sustained elevated eye pressure, the optic nerve fibers gradually die off, causing portions of the outer visual field to disappear and resulting in tunnel vision. Can lead to impaired vision and even blindness.
Increased risk of retinal detachment: the retina becomes detached, such as by one or more tears. If retinal detachment is not treated, it leads to impaired vision or blindness.
The exact cause of myopia is still not known, but there are important contributing factors.
If one or both parents are nearsighted, there is a greater chance of nearsightedness for the child. Also pay attention to whether retinal detachment runs in the family.7
Myopia is common among the Asian population (up to 80%).8
Children who don’t play outside very much and spend a lot of time at short viewing distances such as on a smartphone, tablet or in a book (close-up work) are more likely to develop myopia.9
What should I look out for?
If you recognize one or more of these signs in your child, your child may be nearsighted. These are only indications. It is important to have your child’s eyes checked regularly by a specialist, even if there are no indications of myopia. This allows for timely intervention and avoids unpleasant eye problems in the future as much as possible.
What can you do?
Unfortunately, myopia is not yet curable. However, the specialist can offer some treatments that slow down myopia: this is called myopia management (myopia = nearsightedness). By starting myopia management in time, nearsightedness can be prevented as much as possible. Myopia management options are:
1. Lifestyle advice
Allow children to play outside sufficiently (at least two hours a day). Dopamine and light intensity outdoors have a beneficial effect on the retina.9 Don’t allow children to use their eyes only close up for too much and for too long at a time. It’s easier to remember that with this mnemonic: the 20-20-2 rule.10
2. Specialty lenses
An eye care specialist can offer a number of treatments that inhibit myopia: this is called myopia management (myopia = nearsightedness). By starting myopia management in time, nearsightedness can be prevented as much as possible.
3. Atropine eye drops
Atropine eye drops are prescribed to slow the progression of myopia. During therapy with atropine eye drops, the child often needs glasses or contact lenses to see sharply. Only on indication if myopia is expected to be >6.00 D or axial length ≥26 mm. May have side effects depending on dosage.
Why a Myopia Management Expert?
The name says it all: The Myopia Management Expert will do everything possible to manage myopia (= nearsightedness) in your child. This means, among other things, identifying whether your child is at risk of becoming nearsighted, or – if your child is already nearsighted – creating a treatment plan that best suits your child. This is to stop the exacerbation of myopia as much as possible. Myopia Management Experts are specially trained for this purpose.
1 Wildsoet CF, Chia A, Cho P, et al. IMI – Interventions for Controlling Myopia Onset and Progression Report. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci.2019;60:M106–M131.
2 Williams KM, Verhoeven VJ, Cumberland P, et al. Prevalence of refractive error in Europe Eur J Epidemiol (2015) 30305–315.
3 Holden BA, Fricke TR, Wilson DA et al. Global Prevalence of Myopia and High Myopia and Temporal Trends from 2000 through 2050. Ophthalmology. 2016; 123:1036-42.
4 NOS nl Kwart 13-jarigen bijziend, onderzoekers waarschuwen voor telefoongebruik. Jun, 2018.
5 Morgan P. Is Myopia Control the Next Contact Lens Revolution? The Optician, 2016
6 Flitcroft DI. The complex interactions of retinal, optical and environmental factors in myopia aetiology. Prog Retin Eye Res. 2012 Nov;31:622-660.
7 Xiang F, He M, Morgan IG. The impact of severity of parental myopia on myopia in Chinese children. Optom Vis Sci. 2012;89(6):884-891.
8 Saw SM, Chan YH, Wong WL, et al. Prevalence and risk factors for refractive errors in the Singapore Malay Eye Survey. Ophthalmology. 2008;115(10):1713-1719.
9 Rose KA, Morgan IG, Ip J, et al. Outdoor Activity Reduces the Prevalence of Myopia in Children. Ophtalmology 2008.
10 Advies van Stichting Oogfonds & Erasmus MC – zie ook 20202.nl en www.myopie.nl.