Treating the Myopia Epidemic in Kids

Myopia, commonly called nearsightedness, is often genetic, which explains why some children need glasses at an early age.

But genetics alone cannot explain the virtual epidemic of nearsightedness that has struck U.S. children in the past generation.

The spike in myopia is as much as 30% in the past three decades, and Dr. Rick Graebe, a behavioral optometrist in Versailles, believes he knows why.

“Near-point stress,” he said, which is shorthand for a convergence of cultural trends that have combined to impair the visual systems of a generation of children.

Consider the following 1968 study.

A review of 130 pre-literate adult Eskimos found that only two had myopia. But 60% of the Eskimo schoolchildren were nearsighted.

In school, children spend up to 70% of the day on close-up work such as reading, writing and working on computers.

Schoolwork and the advent of smart phones and smaller and smaller screens add stress to our visual systems.

That stress affects the eye’s focusing muscles. That makes the eyeball go out of shape, which causes nearsightedness.

At the same time, children move less and spend less time outdoors than in previous generations.

Movement helps children develop appropriate sensory integration. Playing outdoors stimulates a child’s peripheral vision, which mitigates against myopia.

Two pathways transmit information from the eyes to the brain – the focal or parvocellular pathway, and the ambient or magnocellular pathway.

With school children spending all day stimulating only the central, focal pathway, there is an imbalance between the “focal” and “ambient” visual input, causing stress on the visual system.

The child then adapts to this imbalanced visual environment, leading to myopia.

But remedies to slow down and even stop this process are available. Dr. Graebe recommends the “5-2-1 protocol.”

Along with proper nutrition (five fruits and vegetables a day), children should take regular eye breaks, spend no more than two hours a day of screen time and play outside for at least one hour daily.

As for glasses, traditional prescriptions merely compensate for nearsightedness, which probably will grow worse over time.

Dr. Graebe prescribes therapeutic lenses and prisms that reduce eye stress and enhance performance.

In some cases, the lenses not only stop the progress of myopia, they correct vision back to 20/20.

“We treat children with these glasses on a regular basis, and the results are excellent,” Dr. Graebe said.

“With the help of these lenses, children are able to reach their potential, which is what our office is all about.”

Dr. Rick Graebe
Family Eyecare Associates
& Children’s Vision and Learning Center
105 Crossfield Drive, Versailles / 859.879.3665