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Is there a way to prevent a child from becoming nearsighted?      

We believe that the answer is YES. If children use reading glasses for reading and other close work as soon as the first signs of nearsightedness appear, nearsightedness (which is also called "myopia") can be prevented. There is no need to sacrifice a child’s vision.

The International Myopia Prevention Association (IMPA) is an organization dedicated to helping children save their vision. This information is provided purely in the public interest. The President of IMPA is Donald Rehm, the author of "The Myopia Myth: The Truth About Nearsightedness And How To Prevent It." He has dedicated his life to preventing myopia in children.

In 2005, we filed a Petition with the Food and Drug Administration requesting enforcement action to require eye care professionals to issue written warnings to parents that distance glasses worsen myopia in children and that prescribed reading glasses for prolonged close work including computer usage may reduce or prevent myopia. The failure to advise parents that myopia can be reduced or prevented by the use of prescribed reading glasses constitutes unlawful misbranding. The petition was denied. Click here to read the Petition.

This site is intended for those who only want some simplified information about myopia prevention. But for those who want to know the shocking truth about greed and inhumanity in the eye care business, including corruption at the FDA and elsewhere, see Myopia.org.

What causes nearsightedness? Nearsightedness is the condition when a person cannot see distant objects clearly without glasses. Nearsightedness is caused by focusing on close-up objects such as a book or a computer for long periods of time. The result is that the eyes get stuck in the close-up focus position and can no longer focus on distant objects.

As children spend more time on computers, watching television, or reading books, they become nearsighted, according to Ian Morgan of the Australian National University in Canberra who is quoted in the July 10, 2004 issue of New Scientist.

The epidemics of nearsightedness in countries such as Singapore and Japan are due solely to increasing amounts of focusing on close objects. According to the New Scientist article, nearsightedness is on the increase in most places, but in countries such as Singapore it has reached extraordinary levels. There, 80 per cent of 18-year-old male army recruits are nearsighted, up from 25 per cent just 30 years ago. Employers such as the police are having problems finding people who meet their requirements. There is also an increasing incidence of extreme nearsightedness, which can lead to blindness. Click here to read the full New Scientist article.

In another study, researchers at Spain's Complutense University found that 31.3% of first-years were nearsighted. Among those four to six years older, in their final year, the rate was 49%. Research author Dr. Rafaela Garrido, who presented her findings to the 10th International Myopia Conference in Cambridge in July 2004, says: "Some students are spending too long in intensive near work with their eyes. It is also a problem with people who spend too long on a computer or using a microscope. It's difficult to ask students to do less reading, as it is essential to passing courses, but we have to find ways to deal with the stress on the eyes."

Click here to read a BBC Online article about Dr. Garrido's research and the prevention of myopia including "lenses to prevent myopia among those involved in intensive reading or screen-viewing."

If we look inside the eye, we can see how this problem occurs. After focusing on close-up objects for extended periods, the focusing muscles in the eyes (which are called the "ciliary muscles") lock up. This results in the eyes becoming more and more elongated. Nearsightedness occurs when the eyes become overly elongated. When that happens, there is no turning back. The eye cannot go back to its previous shape. The ability to see distant objects clearly without glasses is lost forever.

What can be done to prevent nearsightedness in a child? The key is to catch the problem as soon as the child experiences the very first sign of any difficulty seeing distant objects clearly such as the TV or the writing on the board at school. Ask the child from time to time if he or she can see distant objects clearly. For example, ask the child to read a distant road sign or a newspaper held up at a distance. If the child is having any difficulty at all seeing such objects clearly, that is the time to act. Don’t delay - otherwise there will be an irreversible overelongation of the eye.

Usually, eye doctors will prescribe distance glasses for correcting blurred distance vision. Unfortunately, distance glasses actually make nearsightedness worse and irreversible. This is because they force the focusing muscles to stay locked up. This in turn forces the eyes to further elongate, resulting in the need for stronger distance glasses as time goes by. The child is thus doomed to a lifetime of total reliance on distance glasses to see distant objects clearly and progressively worsening nearsightedness. Distance glasses are a false friend.

There is an alternative - reading glasses. If a child starts wearing reading glasses for prolonged periods of reading and other close work at the first sign of any difficulty with distance vision, the focusing muscles will relax and cannot lock up. Reading glasses relax the eyes. There should be no further elongation of the eye. Distant objects can be seen without the need for any glasses. It is important to note that the child will not be reliant on reading glasses. They are simply a protective tool that should be used during long periods of close work. If strong enough reading glasses are used, nearsightedness should be prevented.

The choice is distance glasses or reading glasses. Eye doctors should inform consumers about the option of using reading glasses to prevent nearsightedness, as we have recommended. If an eye doctor is not well informed about this alternative, he or she can obtain information from this website.

It is important that the reading glasses be strong enough to completely eliminate all focusing effort (accommodation) when reading. For the child who is on the verge of becoming nearsighted, "plus three" reading glasses should usually be prescribed.

Whenever close work is done without the protection of reading glasses, it is important to:

1. Hold the work as far away as possible.
2. Use as much light as possible in order to reduce the size of the pupil and, consequently, the accommodation.
3. Look into the distance frequently to relax the accommodation.