Vision significantly influences school performance. Yet sadly, due to lack of awareness and education, children with correctable or preventable poor vision are misdiagnosed every day with learning disabilities. Nationwide each year, less than 14 per cent of children entering grade one has a comprehensive eye exam. This is despite the fact that an estimated one in four has a vision problem significant enough to impair their ability to learn. Children are covered every year by our provincial insurance for vision exams so there is little reason for not having children followed early and regularly as they grow to detect early development conditions that can decrease vision, such as myopia.
Parents often ask, what is myopia? Myopia, or nearsightedness, occurs when the eye grows too long relative to the focusing power of the eye. When the eye grows too long, it is at higher risk for vision threatening diseases. The most commonly seen type of myopia progression occurs between the ages of about 5 to 16 years old. Often, the child will not complain of blurry vision since early progression is unnoticeable. Children also are very adaptable and will compensate by squinting or getting closer to objects.
The consequences of doing nothing about progressing myopia are often devastating. Retinal Detachment risk increases by over 20 times in myopia over –5.00D. This sight threatening condition requires invasive surgical repair within 48 hours in order to avoid permanent vision loss. Perhaps the most compelling reason to do something is the fact that a child’s lifetime risk of irreversible damage to central vision is 40 times greater in myopia over –5.00D, and over 126 times greater over –7.00D! Even the risk of glaucoma and cataracts increases more than 3 times at just –3.00D. Risk increases further with family history.