Commonly known as nearsightedness, myopia is a common refractive eye error. Over the years, the condition’s prevalence has grown;National Eye Institute reports that the number of people between the ages of 12 and 54 in the U.S. diagnosed with myopia jumped from 25% to 41.6% from 1999 to 2004.
What exactly causes myopia is not clear, but eye experts associate it with eye fatigue due to computer and device use, as well as other tasks requiring prolonged near-vision use. Additionally, genetics plays a role, with some people more predisposed to the condition than others.
This makes it possible for myopia to manifest at an early age. As such, parents and guardians with children who are nearsighted wonder if there’s a permanent treatment or cure for the condition, or at least something that can slow down its progression, to avoid the need for stronger prescriptions down the line. Eye care practitioners and researchers have been concerned about this as well, so they have worked to develop different control methods for myopia.
Detecting Myopia Early
As with any kind of health condition, early detection is key to best controlling myopia. Unfortunately, children are less likely to notice changes in their vision. This is why it’s critical for parents and guardians to be observant, ready to spot common signs of myopia, such as squinting and reading too closely.
Scheduling regular early childhood eye exams will also help in determining if a child has or is developing myopia. Should your child be diagnosed with the refractive error, your eye doctor will recommend ways to control myopia, helping you decide the best option for your little one.
EARLY DETECTION: Through regular eye examinations, you can determine if your child has myopia and monitor its progression.
Myopia Control Options
An outright cure for myopia has yet to be discovered, but there are ways to slow its progression, typically inducing changes in the eye’s structure to help improve focus. When the eye is able to focus properly, eye stress and fatigue, which have been associated with myopia progression, are lessened.
Myopia control is necessary to keep your child from developing high levels of nearsightedness, which will require the use of corrective eyeglasses. Myopia severity has also been linked to other more serious eye problems, such as cataracts and retinal detachment.
MYOPIA IN CHILDREN: Myopia and its symptoms typically begins in early childhood and school years.
Today, there are four myopia control methods recommended by eye experts:
- Atropine Eye Drops
For many years, atropine eye drops have been used for myopia control, given its effective short-term results. Topical atropine is primarily used to dilate the pupil, temporarily paralyzing accommodation, the process by which the vertebrate eye alters optical power to maintain clear focus. As a result, the eye’s focusing mechanism is completely relaxed.
Because it has been suggested that myopia in children is linked to focusing fatigue, atropine eye drops are prescribed help ease eye stress. Studies show that atropine eye drops are effective for controlling myopia progression for the first year of treatment.
- Multifocal Contact Lenses
Multifocal contact lenses are special lenses designed with different powers in different zones. They are used to correct various refractive errors, including nearsightedness, but they are also effective at controlling myopia progression.
In 2010, researchers from the U.S., Australia and China studied experimental myopia control contact lenses, which were worn by Chinese schoolchildren within a six-month period,with full corrective power at the center and less power at the periphery. After the study period, the children who wore the special contact lenses had 54% less myopia progression compared to those who wore eyeglasses.
Furthermore, in 2013, researchers in the U.S. found through a two-year study that children who wore the specialized contact lenses on a daily basis had 50% less myopia progression compared to those who wore regular soft contact lenses.
The results of these studies indicate that multifocal contact lenses offer long-term myopia control effects.
- Multifocal Eyeglasses
Multifocal eyeglasses have lenses with varying powers in different lens zones. Because they are similar to multifocal contact lenses, they may be prescribed to patients who are unable to or don’t want to use contact lenses.
In March 2014, Australian and Chinese researchers published the results of a three-year clinical trial wherein 128 myopic children aged 8 to 13 years were made to wear multifocal eyeglasses and single vision eyeglasses. Those who wore multifocal eyeglasses experienced significantly less progression than the other group.
- Orthokeratology (Ortho-K)
In orthokeratology, specially designed gas-permeable contact lenses are worn by patients at night as they sleep to temporarily reshape the cornea. The contact lenses are removed upon waking up but clearer vision can be enjoyed during the day, even without the use of standard eyeglasses or contact lenses.
OVERNIGHT RESHAPING: With orthokeratology, the cornea is temporarily reshaped during sleep, making way for clearer vision during the user’s waking hours.
In addition to eliminating the symptoms of nearsightedness during waking hours, eye experts also use ortho-K to control myopia progression in children. Evidence suggests that nearsighted children who use ortho-k contact lenses for several years may grow up to have lower levels of nearsightedness.
In 2012, researchers from Spain published the results of a five-year study, showing children who wore ortho-k lenses for two years experienced less myopia progression and reduced corneal elongation.
What About Myopia Control In Adults?
Because myopia typically develops during early childhood, myopia control studies are typically conducted among children, with myopia control methods usually directed at them. This is because “control” methods may no longer be as effective in adults as they are in children. If you are an adult who has myopia, you can still benefit from the options discussed above, but not for controlling myopia progression. Rather, they will help alleviate symptoms, giving you clearer vision.
The Institute for Control of Eye Myopia in Children specializes in the diagnosis and management of refractive disorders including myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism and presbyopia. With combined clinical experience of more than 60 years, each member of the clinic specializes in a particular aspect of myopia management, offering reliable expertise in vision care.