Too many of the parents who bring their children to Treehouse Eyes suffer from a sort of DNA guilt. They feel that, since they were nearsighted, their kids are fated to be also.
The first thing we tell them is that research continues to point to a mix of nature and nurture when it comes to myopia’s causes. The second thing we tell them is – stop worrying about what caused their kid’s myopia. Because now you can actually do something about it.
The Dwindling Case for Nature
A 2014 paper published by the NIH offers some powerful insights around the question about the role inheritance plays in determining whether your child becomes myopic. From the lead paragraph, the authors state, “Genetics greatly influence the growth of the eye, but the fine correlation between the components of refraction for the eye to become emmetrope is affected by environmental factors such as education, metabolism, physical activity, and outdoor activity.”
The paper goes on to note that “children with myopic parents have been shown to be more likely myopic compared with those with non-myopic parents. Having two myopic parents generally poses a greater risk than having only one. These correlations are well established in populations of both East Asian and Caucasian origin.”
But, one of the interesting areas of investigation for researchers is probing into other correlative traits at work here. The paper states, “These correlations are consistent with a genetic basis for myopia, [but] they do not establish it.”
What the authors are suggesting is correlation does not equate to causation. It could very well be that other familial and cultural-based factors are at work in contributing to the growing myopia epidemic, especially when we see its distribution so highly concentrated in certain ethnic and socio-economic groups.
Nurture’s Role in Myopia
We know that our vision is affected by many factors beyond the predictors of genetics. From an article in Mercola, we read, “In recent meta-analysis published in Ophthalmology, researchers postulated the reasons for the increasing number of people with myopia were related to changes in the environment. According to the researchers:
“[T]he projected increases in myopia and high myopia are widely considered to be driven by environmental factors … principally lifestyle changes resulting from a combination of decreased time outdoors and increased near-work activities”.
The article goes on to list a range of environmental and behavioral factors which could be contributing to a child’s likelihood of becoming myopic, and offers the caveat that “it would be very difficult to determine which factor is most important in any individual case.”
From our ongoing analysis of the relevant research we know the top factors include too much near-work and electronic screen usage, lack of outdoor playtime and especially the lack of summer-time sun exposure when Vitamin D is best absorbed and processed by children.
Mission to Educate
Here at Treehouse Eyes we take our job of educating our patient communities about the factors contributing to the occurrence of myopia in our children seriously. We’re vigilant about sourcing and sharing the latest research and insights regarding the myopia epidemic.
We’re especially committed to providing parents as much information as possible about the things they can do to reduce the severity of myopia when it does occur, or even prevent it with enough remedial action. Actions like limiting the amount of time your child spends on electronic screens and increasing the amount of time they spend outside and getting as much Vitamin D absorbed into their growing bodies as possible.
No More Guilt
But we’re equally committed to another mission – letting parents know that their children were born into the first generation of kids for which there is finally a way to treat myopia instead of just masking its symptoms with glasses.
If you, like the scores of parents we speak with each month, are still feeling guilty about passing myopia down to you kids, don’t. As the mounting body of science continues to show, heredity plays just one part in myopia’s occurrence.
The parents of myopic kids in 2017 were also born into a lucky generation — the generation that can finally obviate any guilt they might have by having their child’s myopia slowed or halted with myopia control treatments at Treehouse Eyes.
If your child is nearsighted, we invite you to make an appointment here for their assessment.
We believe so deeply that we can improve your child’s vision for life, we are offering complementary evaluations with our eye doctor to see how we can help your child.