Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a condition causing blurry distance vision. Myopia is the result of an eye that has grown too long, causing light to focus in front of the retina. It is estimated that by the year 2050, roughly half of the world’s population will be affected by this eye condition.
This condition is becoming more common among children. Research is showing that children are developing myopia at earlier ages, which leads to higher levels of myopia as the condition progresses through early adulthood. Many researchers believe the rise can be attributed to more time spent staring at screens and less time outdoors.
For a long time, myopia was simply treated with glasses or contact lenses, even though it tended to get worse over time. However, recent research has shown that myopia is really a disease of progressive eye elongation, and offering myopia management options to children with progressive myopia is becoming the standard of care.
Myopia management seeks to prevent myopia from worsening. It is crucial for children and young people. Myopia management may involve a combination of treatments. Myopia therapy aims to reduce the risk of consequences from high degrees of myopia. These may include retinal detachment, glaucoma, and cataracts. The lower your child’s prescription, the less risk of developing serious eye diseases later in life.
Myopia progresses most rapidly between ages 8-16. Even though eye diseases associated with myopia don’t develop until much later in life, the optimal time to prevent them is during childhood and early teen years. The other benefit to controlling myopia progression is better eyesight without glasses or contact lenses. Many highly myopic people (-6 or above) will tell you they can’t see much without their glasses. A person with a lower prescription number (-1 or -2) can still see well up close without correction, which is a big functional benefit.
There are several options to help slow the progression of myopia:
Ortho-k involves wearing specialized contact lenses overnight to reshape the cornea. The lenses correct the myopia at night and allow clear vision during the day. Ortho – k can be a great option for kids who swim or play sports. It gives you freedom from having to wear any glasses or contacts during the day. Ortho K has been shown to slow the progression of nearsightedness by about 50%.
Multifocal contact lenses can help slow the progression of myopia by up to 50%. Our office offers the MiSight Lens and the Naturalvue Multifocal.
Low-dose atropine eye drops have also been found to be an effective tool to reduce myopia progression. When possible, we prefer to use contact lenses or vision therapy options. However, atropine drops can be a good option for patients who aren’t contact lens candidates.
If a problem with how the eyes work together or a focusing problem exists, it can lead to the development or worsening of nearsightedness. Training the visual system to handle near work more efficiently can help myopia from progressing. Vision therapy is a series of doctor-supervised eye exercises designed to improve the function of the visual system. Most myopia control VT programs take 10-12 therapy sessions.
Glasses can be designed to help myopia progression. Prolonged nearwork and digital device use is associated with myopia progression. EyeZen lenses, which have a focusing boost for up close, can help the visual system handle near work more efficiently. This option has less new research behind it compared to other methods, but behavioral optometrists have used this concept to slow myopia progression for a long time.
The best treatment option for an individual depends on several factors. These include their condition's severity, lifestyle, and preferences. Working with an eye doctor with experience to choose the best treatment for your circumstances is essential if your child has myopia. Our office is one of the few in the area that offers myopia control vision therapy. Spending more time outdoors, reducing digital device use, and taking frequent breaks while reading or using devices are all good supplements to any myopia management program.
For more on myopia treatment options, contact Vision Rehabilitation Associates at our Northfield, Illinois office. Call (847) 716-2340 to schedule an appointment today.