Following the American Optometric Association’s recommendations of performing eye exams for children before age 1, at age 3, and before starting kindergarten, that is one of the most common questions that Dr. Knighton and I get. Parents who are nearsighted, or myopic, especially ones who got their first glasses in elementary school, often want to know if their child is going to be nearsighted too.
Over the years, optometrists have had many theories about whether a child will be nearsighted or not. Some of these theories have been helpful, and some have not. Now, thanks to some outstanding research published in this month’s issue of the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, we are closer to an answer.
With 1 simple eye examination, we can now more confidently evaluate if a child will be nearsighted in the next few years.
We have known for a very long time that most newborn infants are not nearsighted, but farsighted (optometrists call this hyperopic). Over time, the amount of farsightedness naturally gets smaller and then levels off at a very small, normal amount. Because of this, eye doctors who see many children have suspected that children who have neither farsightedness nor nearsightedness, rather than being “perfect,” are actually pre-myopes, or kids who will be nearsighted.
This research is big news! It has been covered by Today and NPR. The study of almost 5,000 children over 20 years, shows just that: a 6-year-old child with less farsightedness is at greater risk for developing myopia sooner. The older the child, the more effective the refractive error is as a predictor of nearsightedness onset by age 13.
Fortunately, if a child does have rapidly increasing myopia, there are options to help slow down the worsening of the prescription. You can read about those options for your child here. One other thing research has shown – kids who spend time outdoors are less likely to become myopic. So make sure those young kids spend time outside each day!
If you are concerned if your young child might be nearsighted, or become nearsighted, call 813-792-0637 to schedule an appointment at either Bright Eyes Family or Bright Eyes kids.
Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD, FAAO, FCOVD