Millions of children are growing up short-sighted in India every year. As per the World Health Organisation, the prevalence of myopia is expected to reach 3.3 billion across the world by 2030. Myopia typically begins in childhood and progresses (the eye keeps getting bigger) or gets worse, until early adulthood. During this time the symptom of the disease gets worse, meaning the patient needs stronger glasses to continue to see clearly.However, eyeglasses can address the symptom and not the cause (eyeball length) which can eventually lead to ‘high’ myopia, increasing the risk of retinal detachment, glaucoma or macular degeneration that can cause permanent vision loss.
While myopia is certainly preventable, it requires early detection along with intervention for timely remedial action. Taking steps to spread awareness and prevent visual impairment in children can deliver lifelong benefits and secure the well-being of children.
Why is it Critical to Address Myopia during the Formative Years of a Child’s Life?
The elementary stage of education or the formative years of a child’s life are the most crucial for vision development (between 0-12 years). Healthy vision has a strong bearing on a child’s learning ability. Children with myopia have trouble reading the notes on the class-board or comprehending the presentation materials shared in the class. It can also lead to under performance in different sports activities. Children with near-sightedness also have trouble reading from textbooks or conducting different tasks within a short visual range. School-age children are most vulnerable to uncorrected refractive errors and if left unchecked, it may affect their learning abilities and educational potential.
Studies have also shown that almost 80 per cent of the knowledge acquired by children in school happens through the information that is visually presented and imparted, making vision a primary learning tool.
Awareness can go a Long Way in the Prevention and Early Detection of Myopia
Careful attention and observation by parents and teachers, awareness about the disease and early diagnosis of the problem can create a big impact in preventing myopia in children at an early age. It has never been more important to spread the word and make sure parents and children are informed so that they can make healthy vision decisions.
Although there is much happening in research, product development and professional education to meet the myopia challenge in India, we must engage with those at the front lines – parents and teachers to ensure they have the understanding and tools to protect our children’s futures.
To diagnose poor vision due to myopia, large-scale visual acuity screening services must be implemented at an early stage as well as an annual check-up to update spectacle prescriptions. School education programs should educate children on the importance of refraction and corrected spectacles. It is also equally important to spread awareness that outdoor activity and natural light exposure have a role in delaying the onset and progression of myopia. Though no studies have been conducted in India, based on evidence from other Asian countries, overemphasis on academic success and lack of organised outdoor play in schools may be contributing factors to the high myopia incidence rates among the very young. Hence, our present school health education system needs be modified and better myopia prevention strategies must be implemented in schools to help tackle this problem.
A potential solution is to make the school children aware of the detrimental effects of extended hours of near activity without any outdoor sports. By raising awareness of myopia, more children can be examined and identified and treated.However, in order to enhance children’s lifestyles, a well-structured health education curriculum must be created that is both realistic and appropriate to school-aged children and results in behavioural improvements.
Myopia can interfere with reading, performance, interest in school and reaching important educational milestones. Also, the possibilities of treating myopia effectively increase when it is diagnosed at an early stage.Therefore, helping our children develop basic healthy eye care habits through proper awareness and education is the way forward to controlling the development of near-sightedness. Also, parents must ensure that their child has regular eye exams (at least once a year) to ensure their eyes are healthy and developing properly.
Written By Mr. Nikkhil K Masurkar, CEO, Entod Pharmaceuticals