What Is Myopia?
Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a common eye condition. With myopia, close objects appear clearly, but distant objects appear blurry.
It occurs when the eye grows too long from front to back. The lens of the eye focuses an image in front of the retina, rather than on it.
The incidence of myopia is increasing all over the world. Almost 42% of people in the U.S. are nearsighted. In parts of Asia, myopia is occurring in 80-90% of children by high school graduation.
Scientists are trying to understand the reasons for the dramatic increase in myopia. It is likely related to less time outdoors, and more close work and time on device screens.
How Can Myopia be Controlled?
Eye care providers who take care of children are very focused on controlling myopia as it develops. Their goal is to prevent children from needing thick corrective lenses or higher prescriptions each year.
High childhood myopia increases the risk of retinal detachment, glaucoma, and cataracts in adulthood.
There are four types of treatment that show promise for controlling myopia:
- Atropine eye drops
- Multifocal contact lenses
- Orthokeratology (Ortho-K)
- Multifocal glasses
Atropine Eye Drops
Atropine eye drops have been used for many years as an effective means of myopia control. Atropine dilates the pupils and relaxes the eye’s focusing mechanism.
This may reduce “focusing fatigue” in children. Research shows that atropine can reduce myopia progression during the first year of treatment. Its effect may not be sustainable long-term.
There are some disadvantages to using atropine:
- Doctors do not know the long-term effects of atropine use
- Ongoing light sensitivity from pupil dilation
- Blurred near vision
- Need for bifocals or progressive lenses to read
What is Orthokeratology (Ortho-K)?
Orthokeratology is a newer, non-surgical method of improving myopia. It can be used in both adults and older children.
Special orthokeratology lenses like contact lenses are fitted to a patient’s eyes. While the patient sleeps each night, the lenses flatten the surface of the eye. This is through a process known as corneal refractive therapy (CRT).
The lenses are removed when the patient wakes up. In most cases patients can see clearly for a whole day without glasses or contact lenses.
While Ortho-K is not a permanent cure for myopia, there is good evidence that it can slow its advancement. For children, preventing progression to high myopia can lower the risk of serious eye problems in adulthood.
- Ortho-K often requires several fittings
- Considered an elective therapy that is not covered by insurance
- More expensive than regular contact lenses
- Effects are not permanent when terminated
How Do Multifocal Contact Lenses Work for Myopia?
Multifocal contact lenses have different powers in different zones of the lens. This helps to correct nearsightedness and farsightedness.
Researchers have shown promising results using multifocal soft contact lenses. This could help to reduce the progression of myopia in children.
More randomized clinical trials are necessary to prove their long-term effectiveness.
Do Multifocal Glasses Work for Slowing Myopia?
Multifocal glasses seem to be less effective than multifocal contact lenses. Multifocal glasses have better results than single lens glasses when reducing myopia in children.
Research studies are mixed. More clinical studies are necessary to prove the most beneficial treatment for myopia.
Myopia Control in London, Somerset, and Lexington, Kentucky
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