Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the myopia pandemic in children has worsened. Learn about some unexpected signs of myopia and the emotional impact it has on my son.
Two weeks ago, my son started ticcing his head. I was worried because I came across some recent news of the number of parents seeking medical attention for their children's tics increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since he had not started using social media, it couldn’t be, like in the news, seeing others with tics – especially people living with Tourette Syndrome. When I asked why he was doing it or if it is something that he could control, his responses were “I don’t know.”
So, I searched and found some videos of patients with Tourette Syndrome. I realized that my son’s tics seemed different. He exhibited only the head ticcing - no vocal; it occurred only once every few minutes; each tic was accompanied by an exaggerated eye blink.
The exaggerated eye blink was suspicious and a potential clue to what was happening. I thought to myself could my son have nearsightedness or also known as myopia?
I am a myope myself. My myopia started when I was eight. My son is nine now. I yawn to wet my eyes with tears so I can see more clearly. Could he be trying to do the same with the tic with the blink? His optometrist said that he had pseudomyopia last year. Had it progressed?
After sharing my suspicion with my wife, we called and made an eye check appointment with my son’s optometrist since he was also due for his annual eye check soon.
And yesterday he was diagnosed to have myopia at -2.50 diopter. During his glasses fitting at the clinic, an optician also actively discussed the cause of myopia, the treatment available, and that it is normal – many people, including him have it. (Learn more about optical diopter strength)
The prevalence of myopia among Americans is increasing. It increased from 25 percent in the early 1970s to more than 40 percent in recent years. Furthermore, it was found that one in four parents has a kid with myopia.
The cause of myopia seemed to be a mix of hereditary and environmental factors. In my son’s case, similar to a recent report published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, I believe his increased digital screen time and limited outdoor activities due to the COVID pandemic brought about its onset and reached -2.50 diopter in a year.
After arrived home, he still seemed upset. So, I asked him what was troubling him.
“Why did I become nearsighted? Would my friend make fun of me?” He asked with an anxious voice.
I replied solemnly, “myopia is strong in our family. Your great-grandma has it. Your father has it. And you have it.”
He laughed and felt a little braver.
I further added, “Harry Potter wears glasses. Daddy wears glasses. And, some of your friends from school also wear glasses, and you don’t see people make fun of them, right?... And we could do something about it to make it better. Let’s start with cutting down the iPad time and playing outside more.”
He was a bit more relieved with the assurance.
I could see why my son was worried about myopia. It was a dilemma that I also experienced when I was young. Not wearing may lead to making funny squints and couldn’t see clearly. And wearing glasses might lead to the fear of being bullied.
Furthermore, I was also concerned about the long-term effects of not correcting his vision might potentially put him at higher risk for other serious eye conditions later in life, such as cataracts, retina detachment, glaucoma, or degenerative myopia (a type of macular degeneration).
That evening, we researched and watched some educational videos to learn more about myopia before going to bed.
Even though, he was no longer upset. With puppy-dog eyes, he told us that he was still anxious and would like to fall asleep in the comfort of our presence instead of in his room. Which he did.
I thought to myself. He might not have his glasses yet. But he already seemed a bit wittier.
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