Did you know?: Today, about 20% of the U.S. population has nearsightedness. In 30 years [By 2050], almost 50% will be nearsighted.
-Myopia is not just a risk for reduced vision without glasses but is also a major public health risk for our eyes!
-There are preventative measures that can be taken to slow the progression of nearsightedness, but it is best to apply these methods during childhood while the eyes and vision are developing most.
Myopia (also known as “nearsightedness”) is an eye condition in which one can naturally see clearly up close but blurry far away. Myopia develops due to an eye that has grown too long or a cornea that is too steep.
Myopia (nearsightedness) is often thought of as a clarity problem that only needs to be solved with a pair of glasses. Patients and doctors alike may forget that with higher amounts of myopia, certain risks to vision and ocular health can develop during the patient’s lifetime. Recently, there have been breakthroughs in research and technology that allows us to control how quickly myopia progresses. These new technologies can prove to be an immediate help in reducing the development of myopia and the resulting health risks in the back of the eye.
There are many health concerns that may come with a highly myopic eye. Eyes that are highly myopic are longer from front to back. This means that the retina is stretched more thinly to cover the back of the eye. With a thinner retina, the eye is more susceptible to holes, breaks, or tears — which can lead to vision-threatening conditions like retinal detachment. Preventing a patient from developing -1.00 diopter of additional myopia can reduce the risk of developing vision-threatening conditions by an astounding 40% over a person’s lifetime. In order to do so, it is important to initiate treatment as early as possible.
Epidemiological studies have analyzed several different risk factors for developing myopia. First, family history plays a strong role. When one parent is myopic, the child’s risk of developing myopia is increased by three times. When both parents are myopic, the child’s risk for developing myopia is increased by six times. A second risk factor is how early myopia develops. The younger a child is when showing signs of myopia, the more risk there is for developing much higher levels of myopia as they get older. A third risk factor is the patient’s visual environment. One study showed that when a child works intensely up close (e.g. reading books, writing, or looking at phones) for longer than 45 minutes per day they had an increased risk for developing myopia. Finally, ethnicity plays a role in the development of myopia with patients of Asian descent developing myopia more often than children of other ethnicities.
Due to an increasing number of children and young adults developing high myopia, different treatments have been developed to help curb the Myopia Epidemic. One option involves wearing specially designed multifocal soft contact lenses during the day and removing them before sleeping. A second option is the use of corneal reshaping contact lenses known as CRT or Ortho-K which are worn every night while the patient is sleeping and removed in the morning. This option leaves the patient with clear vision over the course of the day. The third option is the use of low concentration atropine eye drops. These drops are instilled once at night before bed, providing a good alternative for children who cannot tolerate wearing contact lenses. All three of these options have proven to be effective in clinical trials, though each method may be differently effective in any individual case. Before starting any of these treatments, a full comprehensive eye examination is required. To find out if you or your child could benefit from these treatments, please come to Vision Dynamic Optometric Center for a comprehensive eye exam. We are happy to answer any questions and discuss which option is best for you or your child!
Written by: Dr. Brian Nasser, O.D.
- Gifford, Kate. “The Size of the Myopia Problem.” Contact Lens Spectrum, 2019, pp. 6–8.
- Gifford, Kate. “Myopia Management Options: Who, When, What, and How.” Contact Lens Spectrum, 2019, pp. 16–24.
- Frogozo, Melanie. “Implementing Myopia Management: A “How-to” Guide.” Contact Lens Spectrum, 2019, pp. 40–46.