Myopia (or nearsightedness) is the most common ocular disorder worldwide. According to the National Eye Institute, approximately 42% of Americans ages 12-52 are nearsighted.

Myopia often begins between the ages of 6 and 14. It affects up to 5% of preschoolers, about 9% of school aged children, and nearly 30% of adolescents.

Symptoms of myopia include:

  • Complaints of blurry vision (like not being able to see the board in school)

  • Squinting to try to see better

  • Frequent eye rubbing

  • Frequent headaches

Studies show myopia is becoming more common among children, especially as children spent more time virtual learning and staying at home.

A study conducted by researchers from the Hong Kong School of Ophthalmology linked the COVID-19 pandemic to an increase in myopia among young children, and the numbers are still rising. Although there is no proven, direct link, increased near work time and decreased outdoor time have been implicated in the development of myopia.

While myopia like an innocuous condition that affects only vision, it is a major cause of visual disability among children, and also predisposes them to multiple ocular complications that increase the risk of irreversible vision loss later in life.

To help lower the risk of myopia, especially during the pandemic, children are encouraged to take frequent breaks from close-up work, spend daily time outside when possible, and limit recreational screen time.

Doctors are looking at ways to slow the progression of myopia in children. While myopia cannot be reversed, the goal of treatment is to keep it from getting worse. This can protect a child’s eye health in the future, despite still needing to wear glasses or contact lenses.