Myopia, or nearsightedness, is an eye condition that is characterized by poor distance vision. Patients with this condition can see objects that are close to them very well, but objects farther away appear blurred. Myopia may occur in any age group, including children. The best way to treat myopia in children varies by case, but typically involves the wearing of corrective lenses such as eyeglasses or contact lenses.
This condition is classified as a refractive vision impairment. This means that the light entering the eye does not focus on the retina, as it does in patients with 20/20 vision, but at some point in front of the retina. This causes the images of distant objects, such as a street sign, classroom chalkboard or television to be blurry. Myopia in children often causes them to sit too close to the television, ask to sit in the front of the classroom or hold books very close to their faces when reading.
Most cases of myopia in children are treated by having the child wear eyeglasses. Glasses change the way the light focuses before it enters the eye, improving vision. A vision exam will determine both the magnification power and shape of the lenses that the child needs. It is not uncommon for each eye to have a different prescription, so both eyes must be checked. Eyeglasses vary widely in price according to prescription, lens materials and frame style, but can be the least expensive option for myopia treatment.
If the child is older and responsible, contact lenses may be a good treatment option. Contacts are soft pieces of plastic that work in the same way as glasses, but are worn directly on the surface of the eyeball. This method of correcting myopia in children requires a good deal of diligence on the patient's part. The contacts must be properly cleaned as needed and a new pair must be used whenever the packaging instructions recommend. Failure to follow proper hygiene and disposal directions can lead to eye infections, so contact lenses are best left for older children who can take responsibility for their eye care.
Surgery is a good option for adult patients but is not a solution for treating myopia in children. Myopia surgery is permanent, and a child's eyes may change as they grow, leading to the need for additional corrective methods. Corneal implants are a reversible alternative to laser surgery but still are not appropriate for children.
Eye exercises are often prescribed to correct conditions like lazy eye and double vision. These exercises are not effective for myopia in children, however, because the condition is not caused by weakened eye muscles. Myopia occurs due to the shape of the eyeball itself. Eye exercises cannot modify the structure of the eye.