We discovered Mila had limited eyesight when she was just a year old. She demonstrated esotropia which caused one of her eyes to turn inwards. We’re actually really fortunate for the physical sign, as she wouldn’t have been able to communicate the limitations for at least a few years. So we made an appointment with Seattle Children’s Ophthalmology and started a treatment plan, which she’s followed ever since (she’ll be 7 this month). Not everyone shows signs, though, and even common conditions like myopia, or nearsightedness, in kids can actually get progressively worse if not discovered or treated as soon as possible.
Which is why I’m sharing this post today. I could not imagine my little adventure kid not being able to SEE the world! And even worse, knowing it could have been prevented. I’ve partnered with the Global Myopia Awareness Coalition (GMAC) to share our personal experience in making eye care a priority and, most of all, positive!
The Global Myopia Awareness Coalition (GMAC) is a coalition of companies and health care associations committed to raising public awareness of childhood myopia, one of the major public health challenges of our time.
Myopia in Kids
What is Myopia?
Myopia means nearsighted, causing objects far away to appear blurry. It is the most common ocular abnormality in the world, and 50% of the population is estimated to be myopic by 2050 due to overuse of phones, tablets and electronic devices.
How is Myopia Diagnosed?
This is the most important message! Kids can be checked as early as one year of age, so advocate for them! The GMAC created the term #VisionMission, which I love! Make sure you’re visiting an eye doctor for an annual eye check, your visit to the pediatrician is not enough! Even at home, if you notice your child’s eye pulling in or out, never hesitate to bring them in for a re-check. Especially knowing higher myopia can put people more at risk for other serious eye conditions.
Mom Truth: In all honesty, Mila’s left eye was severely pulling in, especially when she was tired…but I didn’t see it. I just thought she had the most perfect face on the planet, and even with smothers of kisses, hundreds of photos and gazing at her for months, I literally never saw it. Well, everyone else did. I started getting comments at the grocery store, at the gym and in the daycare. Everyone noticed it but me. I call it ‘mom goggles.’ So after outside encouragement, we made an appointment with our pediatrician, who then referred us to a pediatric ophthalmologist.
I will say, neither myself, my husband nor our first daughter have any vision impairment. So I guess it never really fell on our radar. And even though myopia is often inherited – that is not always the case! So the lesson is to always be proactive with your kids’ health – even if you ‘think’ you have squeaky clean genetics (whatever that means!).
How is Myopia Treated?
Myopia can be treated in many ways – outside of the conventional eye glasses and contacts – making it all the more important to do your research. Be informed, and ask your eye doctor questions about new myopia treatment options.
Another way to help treat and prevent myopia is by encouraging outdoor play.
Near or up-close work makes myopia progress; outdoor time is beneficial because it seems to slow progression.” Staring at close range for hours, whether at books or screens, causes about three times the risk for myopia increasing, while outdoor time reduces that risk. Just 40 to 80 minutes of daily outdoor playtime decreases myopia rates by 23 to 50 percent.
– Encourage outdoor playtime.
– Teach kids the 20-20-20 rule: for every 20 minutes of screen time, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Or, simply teach kids to look out a window every two chapters while reading. When playing video games, look out a window after finishing a level.
– Keep computers and other digital devices 18 to 24 inches away from the face.
– Set time limits on screen time.
– Remind kids to blink when watching TV and using the computer.
– Adjust screen brightness and contrast so the eyes are comfortable.
– Don’t use screens outside or near a window where glare affects vision
Eye Doctor Tips for Kids
Going to the eye doctor as a kid (or adult) for the first time feels unfamiliar. Maybe a bit uncomfortable and even overstimulating. But it’s important. And can significantly reduce the risk of further vision loss – which outweighs all the tough feelings!
As I mentioned Mila’s first appointment was at one year of age. She sat on my lap, they measured her eyes and performed a few tests to see her responses. Dilating her eyes would cause her to be a bit antsy but they had toys, movies and a playroom where she could wander if needed. Regardless of where you go, know that there are many pediatric eye doctors out there for kids. They make it as easy and comfortable on them as possible.
As the years have gone by the tests have incorporated photos, stuffed animals, stickers and now letters, all of which feel like a game to Mila. All of this plays a part in creating a really positive experience.
I also recommend making a big deal out of eye doctor days. Take them out to ice cream or play at the park. Help them associate the appointments with fun, quality time together. Have a Vision Mission. We’ve been doing it for 6 years and counting and I’m telling you…it works.
I hope our experience sheds some light on the reality of eye care and how incredibly important it is for everyone in your family. Myopia in kids is a real thing…and can be prevented or drastically reduced. Contact your eye doctor to schedule an eye exam to talk about new treatment options asap!
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