Nearsightedness on the rise

“Since the 1970s, the incidence of myopia has nearly doubled, rising from 25 percent of the U.S. population to 42 percent, but predicted to increase to over 50 percent in the next 20 years,” Vasilakos explained. “Once a child becomes myopic, their vision deteriorates every 6 to 12 months, requiring a stronger and stronger prescription.”

Vasilakos said that, in most young adults, myopia will eventually stabilize — but the initial progression of myopia, where the eyes stretch and grow too much, can lead to bigger eye problems later in life, such as a myopic macular degeneration, retinal detachment, glaucoma, and cataracts.

“The higher the myopia, the greater the risk,” she said. “Since myopia progresses the fastest in children under age 10, the most important opportunity to slow eye growth is when children are young.”

For parents concerned about nearsightedness in their children, there’s a range of treatment options available, from the atropine drops detailed in recent research, to specialized contact lenses to orthokeratology, or ortho-k — contact lenses that act like a retainer to shape the eye and improve vision.

To take care of eye health on a day-to-day basis, Vasilakos recommends limiting something that’s become all too common: screen time.

“Follow the 20-20-20+2 rule: for every 20 minutes of screen time, take a 20-second break, look at something 20 feet away or more, and spend at least 2 hours outside each day, throughout the day,” said Vasilakos. “The World Health Organization recommends no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time per day for children ages 5 to 17 years, and a limit of 1 hour per day for preschool-aged children