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Controlling Nearsightedness in Children

Childhood myopia or nearsightedness is a common condition that causes blurred distance vision and can usually be easily corrected with either glasses or contact lenses. Unfortunately, simply getting a pair of glasses doesn’t always solve the problem, because often myopia is progressive which means that every year the vision gets worse. This usually continues until sometime around the child’s 20th birthday when his eyes stop growing and eyesight levels off.

It can be worrisome and quite disconcerting for both the parent and the child when each visit to the eye doctor results in a higher prescription. There could be a number of factors involved in progressive myopia, involving hereditary factors as well as possible environmental or behavioral factor such as frequent close-up tasks such as reading or using an electronic device. In fact, studies show that children that spend more time outdoors playing have a lower incidence of myopia. Much research is currently being done into treatments for slowing or stopping myopia progression in children. Here are some of the treatment options currently being offered:

Perscription Glasses

Orthokeratology (Ortho-k)

Ortho-k is a process that uses specially designed rigid gas permeable contact lenses worn at night to gently reshape the cornea, eventually allowing clear vision during the day. The lenses are worn every night or every couple of nights depending on the results of the individual. Ideal for mild to moderate myopia, ortho-k usually takes a few weeks to show results, during which time the patient may need to temporarily continue wearing glasses or contact lenses.

Studies show that the use of ortho-k can permanently reduce the progressive lengthening of the cornea which is responsible for nearsightedness and can therefore slow or stop the childhood progression of the condition. Therefore, in addition to being used for myopia correction, it is now also being offered as a therapeutic treatment to halt myopia progression in children.

Multifocal Eyeglasses or Contact Lenses

Bifocal or multifocal soft contact lenses or glasses have been shown in some studies to slow myopia progression. This therapy is based on the idea that the eye is strained from accommodating to see close up and that by providing multiple focusing powers, this allows the eye to relax when doing near work, which reduces the progression of the refractive error. This treatment has been shown to delay or slow the advancement of myopia in some children.

Atropine Drops

Treatment with atropine drops is another therapy that is used to relax the eye from “focusing fatigue” which may be a culprit in myopia progression. Research is still being done but some studies show that daily use of low doses of atropine drops do slow the progression of myopia. Atropine drops dilate the pupil which temporarily prevents the eye from being able to focus, thereby allowing this mechanism to relax. Research is still being done to determine dosages, but the results are promising.

If your child has progressive myopia, seek out a pediatric optometrist who is knowledgeable about the options available. Finding the right treatment could give your child the gift of better eyesight for life.

The Growing Prevalence of Myopia

Myopia is becoming increasingly prevalent around the world, with a recent study showing that close to 30% of the world’s population is currently myopic. Alarmingly, by 2050, close to 50% of the global population will be myopic. That’s a staggering 5 billion people!

Myopia rates have shot up in the last 20 years. In China, between 10-20 % of primary school children are myopic. This number increases to 50% for high school students, and by the time they reach university, 90% of the student body is nearsighted. 

The good news is that thanks to Myopia Management, you can protect your children from landing on the wrong side of this statistic.

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Myopia Control Starts with an Eye Exam

Regular comprehensive eye exams for your child at all stages of their development is extremely important to ensure a child’s vision will develop as it should and to diagnose any eye conditions that may be affecting your child. There are many eye conditions, such as strabismus and amblyopia that can be corrected easily if caught early but can do irreversible damage that will affect a child into adulthood if left undiagnosed and untreated for too long. However, one of the leading causes of ocular disease in adults that continues to progress is myopia or nearsightedness.

Myopia Management May Include:

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Slow or Stop Myopia

While nearsightedness or myopia for many has been corrected through glasses or contact lenses, a modern concept has developed called Myopia Management. Myopia management is oriented to slow down or stop the progression of myopia since over the past few decades myopia has increased at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, the percentage of moderate to high myopia has grown in number and myopia management is becoming a major consideration for parents & their child’s eye health.

Levels of Myopia:
  • Mild myopia: -0.25 to -3.00 D                           

  • Moderate myopia: Between -3.00 to -6.00 D

  • High myopia: More than -6.00 D

Myopia Control Prevents Risk of Ocular Disease

  • Cataracts:
    The rate of progression of myopia has been linked to the development of cataracts. The higher the level of myopia in a child, the faster the rate cataracts can develop when they get older.

  • Glaucoma:
    Glaucoma is when the eye develops an unusually high pressure, where this pressure can damage the optic nerve and cause vision loss. Studies have shown that nearsighted people have a 2-3x greater risk at Glaucoma.

  • Detached Retina:
    Levels of myopia also have a correlation to detached retinas. A detached retina is when the retina pulls away from the eyes tissue, often resulting in permanent vision loss.

Myopia Control Starts with You – The Parent

Your child’s eyes are his/her gateway into the world of learning. When your child’s vision is not functioning properly, learning and participation in recreational activities will suffer. Children are not likely to recognize vision problems like myopia, and it is, therefore, the responsibility of parents and teachers to recognize signs of visual problems in their children.

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Children’s Eyesight May Change, Less Often With Myopia Control

Because changes in your child’s vision can occur without you or your child noticing them, your child should visit the eye doctor every year or more frequently if specific problems or risk factors exist. Myopia management attempts to reduce the number of changes that may occur in your child’s vision. With a successful myopia management program, an eye doctor can provide your child with amazing vision, track your child’s rate of myopia, and provide a clear road to healthy eyesight and a successful future.

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