Myopia is a common cause of poor vision. In the USA between 30 and 40% of the population will have myopia. Aside from the poor vision associated with myopia, there are also some serious problems associated with nearsightedness that can damage vision. Stable myopia in adults is corrected with glasses or contact lenses. Children at risk for myopia can be treated to lessen the impact of this condition. Addressing myopia in children, especially before the growth years of adolescence can benefit the youth by reducing the chance of stronger correction and thicker glasses. Severe myopia is associated with retinal degeneration so myopia control is a worthwhile goal.
Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a condition in which individuals are able to see objects that are close to them but have difficulty distinguishing things at a distance without glasses or contact lenses. In significant myopia the eye is unusually long and thick glasses are needed to focus on objects in the distance. The risk of progressive myopia increases for children with near sighted parents, excessive time indoors, and overuse of computers and reading.
We take a family history, looking for a genetic tendency for myopia. The child’s vision is tested, and a refraction (glasses check) is performed. A refraction is the process of identifying and quantifying the myopia. An important measurement is the axial length: a computer measures how long the eye is. There are reliable charts of normal eye growth patterns which we program with the child’s measurements. If the amount of myopia and axial length are outside the normal growth pattern, then we may recommend treatment.
Control of myopia in children and adolescents has become an area of intense interest and study. There are several treatments for myopia that have proven to be helpful in a number of studies. Myopia cannot be cured but during the developing years the condition can be controlled.
Progressive myopia is associated with heavy computer use, reading, and not enough outside time. The near tasks require focusing and excessive game playing on computers doesn’t give the focusing muscles time to relax. So game playing on computers should be controlled and necessary homework and reading broken up by taking breaks. More outdoor time is possibly felt to be related to the differing wavelengths of natural light, or just getting the child away from the computer.
Ortho-K | Ortho-K or Orthokeratology is one practice being used to slow down the progression of myopia. Ortho-K utilizes special gas-permeable hard contact lens that is placed on the eyes just before bedtime. This lens helps to gently hold your eye in the proper shape throughout the night. The lens is not worn during the day as the eye tends to hold the desired shape achieved by the night time treatment. This approach more often used in stable myopia in adults but can be employed in children to slow the progression of myopia...
Atropine Eye Drops | One of the theories about the progression of myopia, is that it is associated with eye strain. The additional stresses that are placed on the eye when straining tend to cause abnormal elongation of the eye. Atropine drops are placed in the child’s eyes at bedtime. The drops dilate the pupils but more importantly relax the focusing muscles during sleep. This relaxation reduces msscl tone of the focusing muscles and therefore the tendency for the eye to elongate with worsening myopia as a result. The dilation and impact on focusing are usually gone the next morning.
Multifocal Eyeglasses or Contact Lenses | These specialty glasses or contact lenses are designed to help reduce strain on the eyes. They provide correction for near vision to reduce excessive eyestrain and spasm of the focusing muscles. The eyeglasses are not currently available in the USA but can be ordered in Canada. Either approach has shown great promise in slowing the progression of myopia in youth.
If either parent has significant myopia, the child should be checked. If you notice that your child is having a difficult time seeing objects that are far away or squinting, he or she may need treatment. Many parents notice changes in their children with their behavior or grades at school, their ability to play sports, or that they may even be pulling back from playing with friends. It is important for all kids to have periodic vision checks but especially those who seem to underperform or have difficulty with school, games or sports.
We are quite involved in this developing discipline of myopia control. Please call and make an appointment for your child and we will evaluate the need for glasses and/or treatment.