If your child's vision test indicates that the distant visual acuity is less than 20/20, myopia (nearsightedness) could be developing. Roughly half of our children develop myopia during their school years.
In the past, schools have merely suggested that the family consult an eye doctor to have eyeglasses prescribed. This quick solution does not address the cause. It is common for a child to find that the condition continues to worsen, requiring stronger lenses every year or two. If that many children needed hearing aids or crutches at such an early age, and had to use them the rest of their lives, wouldn't that be alarming? While wearing glasses for a lifetime is expensive and troublesome, any amount of myopia causes an abnormal stretching of the eye and sets the stage for serious eye diseases in later years, such as retinal detachment, macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataract. The more myopia, the greater the risk.
Most eye doctors claim that myopia is inherited and that glasses are the only answer. They say this even when there is no history of myopia in the family. However, there is much published research indicating that myopia develops because of the unnatural amount of close-up focusing that our eyes are subjected to in our modern life, such as when reading or using computers. Over one hundred years ago it was noted that those who became myopic usually used their eyes for prolonged close work, such as bookkeeping. Those who used their eyes for distance, like soldiers, rarely became myopic. And here is some recent evidence from the Washington State University Primate Research Center that confirms that myopia is caused by the way we use our eyes:
1) Since the eyes of certain monkeys are nearly identical to human eyes, a hood was used to restrict the vision of such monkeys so that they could see no farther away than 15 inches. It was found that most of them developed high myopia just as humans do. This proves that prolonged focusing on close objects, such as books and computer screens, causes myopia. Monkeys living in the wild do not develop myopia. 2) The vision of Eskimos living on the northern shore of Alaska was examined. It was found that the parents and grandparents, who were illiterate and living a typical outdoor life, were not myopic. Of the children, who had the benefit of compulsory education, fully 60% were myopic. This proves that myopia is not inherited. Primitive or illiterate people around the world generally do not develop myopia.
The standard treatment is to prescribe concave or "minus power" lenses, the opposite of the convex or "plus power" lenses in the reading glasses you will find in drug stores. Minus lenses bring the world closer from a focusing standpoint and cause even greater focusing effort. This can lead to a vicious circle of deteriorating vision and stronger lenses. With the increasing use of computers as well as books, the world is facing an epidemic of myopia. In some highly-literate Asian nations, like Singapore, over 90% of college graduates are now myopic. Inherited defects do not increase at such a rate.
The advocates of Myopia Prevention claim that a myopic child actually needs plus lenses for all close work, in order to completely relax the focusing mechanism in the eye. This method has been shown to halt and even reverse the development of myopia and return the child to normal vision, provided that the myopia is still at a beginning stage. Some optometrists use this method on their own children. Using such glasses to protect our eyes from an unnatural amount of close work for which they were not designed is no different than wearing shoes to protect our feet from walking on things they weren't designed for, like sidewalks.
This is an important decision that you must make for your child, requiring that you first look at all sides of the issue. Your school would be negligent if it did not make this information available to you. The case for Myopia Prevention can be found at www.preventmyopia.org. If you wish to try this approach, you need to find an optometrist who will read this information and act accordingly.