Jim Kokkinakis, principal optometrist at The Eye Practice, is serious about reducing the burden of myopia. He's seen a huge increase in myopia in Australian children over the past two decades, coinciding with the digital age.
"It's not just the screens themselves, it's the fact that they're keeping children indoors", says Jim, during his recent interview on the Today Show.
Time spent outdoors has been clinically shown to reduce the risk of developing myopia AND the risk of myopia getting worse. Kids are indoors a lot more these days, instead of out in the yard, playing cricket, or at the beach. As the myopia epidemic continues to rage, parents ask how they can reduce their children's risk of developing myopia. Dr Jim has this to say:
Jim's tips for using screens safely
- Limit screen time as much as possible. (We've previously written about how you can achieve this through 3 simple steps).
- Increase the distance to the device: the further, the better.
- Stick to daytime use where possible and avoid using before bedtime.
Myopia CAN be prevented and controlled
If your child does develop myopia, it doesn't mean they will just keep getting worse. This may have been the case until recently, but with effective methods to control myopia being offered by more practitioners, the eye condition can be slowed down or even halted in its tracks.
The Eye Practice sees children with myopia every day. Rather than just correcting the vision, by providing distance glasses, we aim to slow down or stop your child's myopia. And we have several tools in our arsenal:
- Orthokeratology (or ortho-k): These are rigid lenses you sleep in overnight. They correct myopia so that lenses or glasses are not needed during the day. Read more here.
- Atropine: these eye drops are used once at day (at night) for years. They may be combined with other myopia control therapies for maximum results. Read more here.
- Customised glasses: multifocal and bifocal glasses have been used for decades to prevent myopia is susceptible children. In certain cases, they can be the most effective option. Read more here.
- Multifocal contact lenses: The newest innovation is NaturalVue multifocal soft daily disposable contact lenses. These lenses are comfortable, hygienic and remove the stimulus for the eye to become more short-sighted over time. Read more here.
All of these interventions can potentially have a role. It is always best to see a practitioner that can offer all of these options.
Why control myopia?
Many parents question whether they should be concerned about the progression of short-sightedness in their children's eyes through their childhood and teenage years. If they're seeing well through glasses, why worry?
But myopia is not just short-sightedness. It is an eye disease and the more myopia you have, the higher the risk of developing several other eye diseases, including retinal detachment, glaucoma and macula disease. The less myopia you or your child ends up with, the better.
Early intervention can prevent myopia before it even starts in susceptible children and it can slow the progress of myopia where it has already begun.