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Progressive Nearsightedness in Children

Nearsightedness (myopia) is the inability to see objects clearly at a distance. Some children are born with a progressive form of nearsightedness, meaning that their uncorrected eyesight will worsen overtime. Glasses usually help children see normally, but do not eliminate the myopia.

What causes nearsightedness?

In people who are nearsighted, the eyeball is slightly longer than usual from front to back. Light rays which make up the images you see, focus in front of, rather than directly on the retina, the light-sensitive part of the eye. When this happens, objects at a distance seem blurry and unclear.

Progressive nearsightedness is predominantly caused by genetics (children inherit a tendency to develop the condition from their parents). The manner in which a person uses their eyes may also have an influence on the progression of myopia.

How do I know if my child is nearsighted?

Nearsightedness may be accompanied by headaches, eyestrain, and fatigue when having to focus on something more than a few feet away. If your child complains of any of these symptoms, get his or her eyes checked by an eye doctor. Most often children will only complain of difficulties seeing things far away and have to get close to them to see clearly.

In addition, make sure your child is examined in the first year of life, at age three, and every two years afterwards, especially if there is a family history of progressive nearsightedness or other eye conditions.

How is nearsightedness treated in children?

It is still controversial whether progressive nearsightedness in children can be slowed down. Some recent studies suggest that the use of atropine combined with bifocals slows the progression of myopia.

Children can start wearing contact lenses when they are physically mature enough to take care of them. Depending on how involved the parents are in caring for the contacts. Pediatric ophthalmologists rarely recommend contact lenses before a child enters his or her teens.

Talk to your child's eye doctor to find if contacts can help your child.

Can nearsightedness be prevented?

Since nearsightedness is inherited, it is not possible to totally prevent its occurrence. However, there are steps you can take to minimize its effect. Make sure your child is examined early, especially if there is a family history of progressive nearsightedness or other eye conditions. If it is uncomfortable to do work or watch television from a standard distance, your child may already be developing nearsightedness and needs an examination.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 11/14/2008...#10800.