What Is Myopia?
Myopia is a refractive error which is commonly known as either nearsighted or shortsighted. Another popular name for myopia is school myopia because it tends to manifest as children enter school (around the age of 8-12). In the past a patient with myopia was given glasses and the issue was not given too much thought. Over the last 30 years eye doctors and researchers started giving myopia more thought for two reasons.
- Myopia is becoming more and more common, with the number of Americans between the ages of 12-54 with myopia doubling from 1970-2005 from 25% to close to 50%! And the trend continues to increase, with close to 90% of high school and college students in China who are myopic.
- Recent research has shown a very large correlation between high myopia and eye diseases which can cause vision loss and in some cases even blindness. As this is obviously a very serious concern, eye doctors and researchers have taken the charge of educating patients about the risks and methods of minimizing those risks by reducing the progression of myopia.
The risks include:
- 4-10 times increased risk of retinal tears and detachment depending on the severity of the myopia.
- Increase risk of cataracts.
- Decreased effectiveness of cataract surgery.
- 200% or more increase in the risk of glaucoma.
How to Slow the Progression of Nearsightedness in Kids
Until recently, there was no effective, proven way to slow this progression. Multifocal lenses and orthokeratology have changed this status quo! To learn more about how your child’s myopia can be suppressed, contact your eye doctor to schedule an appointment.
Multifocal Lenses and their Effect on Myopia
Many recent clinical studies demonstrated that soft multifocal contact lenses designed with a center distance can put the brakes on elongation of the eye and the continuing advance of nearsightedness. This particular design of contact lenses appears to provide sharp eyesight by focusing light directly on the retina. In a 2014 study in Hong Kong, kids who wore multifocal contacts had 25% less myopia progression than those who wore single vision lenses over a two-year span. These results emerged when children wore the contacts for five hours per day. When the wearing time was increased to seven hours a day, improvement was even more remarkable!
Ortho-k as a Myopia Treatment for Kids
Vision shaping ortho-k lenses are similarly effective at slowing the pace of eye growth and myopia progression. By wearing specialized gas permeable contact lenses through your sleeping hours, your cornea is reshaped. When it comes to subduing myopia, wearing eyeglasses or normal contact lenses doesn’t compare to the great benefits of corneal shaping therapy! With children, studies published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology conclude that ortho-k is safe and highly efficient as a non-invasive way to treat and inhibit myopia in kids.
When Can Myopia Control Be Started?
As myopia generally starts and develops from about 8 years old, treatment should theoretically be started at a young age. However, science has yet to conclude which kids make the ultimate candidates. What’s obvious though is that children with very advanced myopia at a young age have the strongest potential for benefitting from myopia treatment.
Many parents express concern that contact lenses are inappropriate for young children. According to eye care specialists, this should not be a reason for worry. In reality, younger kids experience less complications from contact lenses than older teens and college students. Learning how to insert and care for contacts properly is easy for most children, and the popularity of contact lenses is on the rise in elementary schools.
Our Eye doctor believes that myopia control is a technique all parents should explore for their children who are nearsighted. As an experienced specialist in ortho-k, corneal reshaping and myopia control for kids, he performs many expert contact lens fittings in our clinic.
Call to schedule a consultation to see if your child can be treated effectively with multifocal contact lenses or ortho-k.