A new report on the eye health of Canadian children shows that rates of nearsightedness (aka myopia) are on the rise. This increase in myopia rates amongst children is a part of a global trend now referred to as the "myopia boom."
Scientists from the University of Waterloo's Centre for Ocular Research & Education (CORE) and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind combined forces on this massive study.
According to their research, Canadian children between the ages of 11 and 13 saw the most dramatic rise in myopia rates in recent decades. Nearsightedness was up in this age bracket 28.9 percent compared with a 6 percent increase in children between the ages of six and eight.
Genetics did play a role in the likelihood that a child would develop myopia. Even if a child only had one parent with myopia, they were 2.52 times more likely to develop the visual disorder.
One positive finding from this report was that children who spent a long time outside had a 14.3 percent lower risk of developing myopia. Professors hope this finding will encourage parents to bring their children outside every day to get vitamin D from the sun.Over the past few decades, childhood myopia rates have gone up in almost every nation. No region on earth, however, has been hit harder with the "myopia boom" than East Asia.
At least 80 percent of people around the age of 20 in nations like Singapore and Hong Kong wear contacts or glasses for myopia. Scientists still don't know why myopia is more prevalent in East Asian countries.
Optometrists recommend all parents bring their children in for visual screenings regularly to check for diseases like myopia. Treating myopia as soon as possible can dramatically reduce the severity of the disease later in life.
Key warning signs that your child has myopia include complaints of blurred vision, frequent headaches, and squinting to read things in the distance.
In addition to having a heightened risk of blinding diseases, untreated myopic children have been shown to perform worse in school than children with normal vision. Children with untreated nearsightedness are also more prone to develop mental disorders like anxiety and depression.
Thankfully, there are ways children can reduce their risk of developing myopia. In addition to getting more natural sunlight, eye doctors recommend parents limit their child's use of electronic screens. Many optometrists believe the increased use of electric screens is a major contributor to growing myopia rates.
Another change that could reduce a child's risk of developing myopia is a change in diet. Children who eat more foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, and vitamin D have a lower risk of developing eye disorders. Excellent food sources of these nutrients include wild-caught salmon, walnuts, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
Mike Yang, who works at CORE, was the lead author of this Canadian study. A few other key researchers include Desmond Fonn, Doerte Luensmann, and Lyndon Jones, all of whom also work at CORE in Ontario.
People can read more about the specifics of this study in the latest edition of the magazine eye. Researchers entitled this article, "Myopia prevalence in Canadian school children: a pilot study."