Myopia & How to have a MyopiaChat | What parents need to know

In this section we give parents of children with myopia (a.k.a. “short sight”) an ABC simple-terms guide to what myopia is and how to have 2 MyopiaChat’s:

1. With your optician: 5 questions to ask your optician (and understand the answers to)

2. With your child: unless they ‘get it’ and you work together, nothing will change (we know how difficult it is!)

We get our children to brush their teeth twice a day to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Why don't we look after their eyes the same way?

In the UK we often use the harmless colloquial term ‘short sight’ for the medical term (disease) ‘myopia‘. At the first diagnosis of MYOPIA PROGRESSION (>0.50D increase in one year) your optician should give you a MyopiaChat. 5 questions you need to ask them to get the most out of that chat are below.

Myopia is very common, ~30% of your child’s school will have it. But you must act early to educate you and your child about it, to manage it effectively with lifestyle changes and/or specialist glasses, day lenses or night lenses. If you do, they will have a better life (with better sight) and less risk of eye disease later in life. As parents we understand how difficult it is to chat to your kids about this, so this section has been created to help you do it. Please start as early as you can.

What is Myopia? A simple guide for parents & their children

DISCLAIMER: This is a non-medical communication tool written by Tom Griffiths – a non-medical parent who wasn’t told about his son’s myopia, and didn’t understand it when he was finally told – in consultation with optometrists, to enable parents to learn about their child’s myopia in a non-medical way they will understand. Your optician will give you a medical chat if you’d like one. This content is guidance only.

What is Myopia?

Your child’s eye is the shape of a rugby ball, not a football. Which means that the light doesn’t focus perfectly on the retina, giving them blurred vision. Measured in Dioptres (D) you’ll see a minus sign in front of the prescription number to show myopic short sight e.g. -1.50 [long sight has a + in front of the number e.g. +2.75].

So my son started to lose 1D per year from the age of 9, which is the sign of a high myope: he went -1, -2, -3, -4. At -4 when his specs came off he really couldn’t see a lot. He could have kept going well beyond -8, which is really bad. We put him into a myopia control device at 14 which stabilised him at -4.5D. He’s now 17 and doing well!

Moderate Myopia vs High Myopia

Lots of people have moderate myopia and never progress beyond -1 to -2. However, if your child, like my son, progresses quickly to go well beyond this, then you need to take action fast and early. What I had no concept of was how little Benjamin was going to be able to see unaided as he got older the direct links to serious eye disease.

In a nutshell: the higher the minus number, the greater the risk to your child in later life of detached retinas, myopic macular degeneration and glaucoma. Most importantly they will go through life not being able to see well.

See the chart below to get a sense of where your child is, but PLEASE ask your optician to talk you through this as part of their MyopiaChat.


Can we control / stabilise their myopia?

Good news = YES! Through (paid-for) devices and also via a change in habits (no cost). The no cost change in habits is the tricky bit, as it means less/changed screen time and more outdoor time. I’ve tried less screen time and more outdoor time with my boys, but they just see it as dad trying to ruin their fun. They don’t see the big picture.

Working with other parents we realised that unless parents and kids see the big picture, nothing will change

e.g. you wouldn’t let your child guzzle sweets in bed before sleep every night, not brush their teeth and then go to sleep? It would silently decay their teeth right? Yet we’ll let them watch a screen close to their face just before sleep every night which silently ‘decays’ their eyesight. Why? Surely their eyesight is as important as their teeth? I’d argue more!

MyopiaChat 1 | Parent to Child

CLICK HERE to head to the CHILDREN section of this site to (a) read how to (in advance) and (b) actually have a MyopiaChat with your child using the tooth brushing comparison which they should understand. We have tested this on quite a few children and whilst it works (on children as young as 8), it’s only as good as the parent discussion with them after they have read it, and the follow up actions.

The most effective part is where we get them to stare at the 2 images, of a screen under a microscope (it makes their eye feel funny) and the countryside scene (no feeling). That’s where the penny drops, because they can actually feel something happening in their eye and you have an opportunity to talk seriously about it.

This is really, really not good for myopic eyes! If you wouldn't let them guzzle sweets for an hour before bed, don't let them do this. Same reason.

How much outdoor time will help their eyes? And adapt that screen time!

Studies have shown that 14 hours per week (2 hrs/day) spent outdoors reduces the risk of developing myopia or of their myopia getting worse. Basically, it’s good for their type of eye. As for screens – you know when your parents said – “those screens are bad for you and will give you square eyes!” – well, they were kinda right!

Look after their eyes like you look after their teeth because, like their teeth, they need their eyes when they’re older!

2 minutes brushing their teeth twice per day = 4 mins x 7 days = 28 minutes per week. For their eyes it’s 14 hours/week outdoors, looking up away from screens. Some can be achieved at school during down time, on the way to school, by walking the dog / family walks, going to the park, playing in the garden etc. Whatever works for you.

MyopiaChat 2 | Parent with Optician

Mum and dad – if you haven’t had a MyopiaChat with your optician yet, ask for one the next time you visit. They’ll be more than happy to have one. Below are 5 questions you should make sure you ask, and understand the answers to, before you leave the test room. The 4 main options for Myopia Control / Management are also shown below for discussion. The chart can be used by you as rough guidance for your child’s potential path and used by your optician to communicate with you. But please don’t take it literally, it’s a communication device only.

5 questions parents must ask their optician

1. Does my child have myopia – what is it?

2. What line on the eye chart can they see now?

3. What line might they see in 5 years’ time?

4. What is their projected line on the first diagnosis chart?

5. What myopia control options are available?

The 4 main options for Myopia Management

  1. More time outdoors (14 hours/week)
  2. Myopia Control GLASSES
  3. Myopia Control DAY LENSES
  4. Myopia Control NIGHT LENSES (Ortho-K) – overnight vision correction – no need for glasses or day lenses
This first diagnosis chart can be used by your optician to explain to you how your child's myopia might progress over time, how management / control may be possible and the link between myopia progression and the risks long term of eye disease. Every Dioptre increases the risk of disease, retinal detachment etc. The message to parents is 'start early' and like diabetes with cake and sweets, learn the sensible ways to live with and manage myopia. Click on the chart to download it as a pdf to take to your optician.

CLICK HERE to find out more about the 3 main paid-for options for Myopia Control – GLASSES, DAY LENSES & NIGHT LENSES.


#MyopiaChat is a big UK conversation.

If you are a parent who now understand that myopia = short sight, please do think about having your own MyopiaChat with other parents you know whose children are short sighted.

It may come as a surprise to them, but your education might just help their child see better and have a better life.