Myopia Control and Kids

There are a growing number of children becoming myopic (nearsighted) every day. In fact, it is estimated that by the year 2020, 50% of the world’s population will be myopic. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) now recognizes this trend as a global epidemic and encourages eye care practitioners to address these changes. Although myopia may seem harmless and correctable with glasses and contact lenses, that is not always the case. Myopic individuals are at higher risk of sight threatening complications such as glaucoma, retinal detachments, macular degeneration and cataracts. The earlier in life children show signs of nearsightedness, the more likely they are to progress and experience these problems.

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What Causes Myopia?

The question is often asked, “why are we seeing a shift in more children developing nearsightedness?”. While there might be a genetic link, the answer is not all genetics like once thought. Myopic parents have children with a predisposition to nearsightedness but are not guaranteed this destiny. We know this as we see highly nearsighted parents with children that have varying degrees of myopia. It is believed that myopia development is a product of the environment around us. This has the largest effect on myopic development starting at the early grade school years through late teens. Children are spending more time indoors doing near work than they were 25 years ago. Between digital devices, studying, reading and videogames, children are putting more stress on their visual systems than in the past. Our eyes adapt to this added stress by becoming nearsighted. While the best treatment is to encourage children to spend more time outdoors, running around and getting dirty; more needs to be done as the increasing demand in near work is not going away.

Myopia Control Treatments

There are four main treatments for controlling myopia. The most effective treatment method is chosen based on the child’s current prescription and ability to use contact lenses, eye glasses or eye drops. Treatment is not designed to eliminate future nearsightedness, rather to slow its progression. For example, a child not treated with myopia control might have 8 diopters of myopia by the end of their teenage years. However, that same child treated may only have 4 diopters of myopia by the same time. This may result in a lifetime of fewer nearsighted related complications and eye diseases.


  • Orthokeratology (Ortho-K)


This involves using a rigid gas permeable contact lens to gently reshape the front surface of the eye while the child sleeps. The child then enjoys clear vision the next day free of contact lenses or glasses, while getting the full benefit of myopia control. Children as young as 5 are excellent candidates for ortho-k. Studies indicate that this method of myopia control yields, on average, a 50% reduction in myopia progression.


  • Atropine Eye Drops


Atropine drops have been used for many years to control myopia progression. They work by limiting the eyes ability to focus up close, which is one of the triggers for myopia progression. Studies suggest that atropine drops reduce myopic progression by upwards of 80%. However, this benefit is limited by the high rebound rate associated with atropine drops. Recent research has found that children using a diluted concentration of atropine drops have a lower likelihood of rebounding.


  • Multifocal Spectacles


Children wearing multifocal spectacles compared to single vision spectacles are less nearsighted in adulthood. Like other methods, multifocal eyeglasses work by limiting the amount of stress on the eye during near activities. This treatment results in the lowest reduction in nearsightedness compared to the other three methods.


  • Multifocal Soft Contact Lenses


Similar to ortho-k, multifocal soft contact lenses will slow myopia progression by around 50%. While there are many multifocal designs available, studies have found a specific design most effective in slowing myopic progression. The most successful lens design to control myopia is one that features a distance vision corrected zone in the center and a strong reading power outside the center zone.

It Starts with the Parents!

The best and most effective way to take advantage of myopia control is to detect nearsightedness early. Parents should schedule an annual eye examination for their child, even if they do not suspect problems. Children often do not complain of small changes in vision until it is negatively impacting their daily activities. Children undergoing myopia control treatment have less yearly prescription changes and more stable vision. Most importantly, by treating nearsightedness early, children are less likely to encounter future sight-threating vision complications later in life.

Please call today to schedule a consultation to see if myopia control is right for your child!



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