Myopia Control - Stopping Shortsightedness
What is myopia?
Myopia is the medical term for short-sightedness, when the eyeball is too long or the lenses that focus the vision is too powerful. The result is that light coming into the eye does not focus directly on the retina, but instead falls in front of it, causing objects in the distance to look blurred. Myopia often worsens as we grow and consequently, the eye grows.
Why do people develop myopia?
Research suggests it depends on each person’s genetics as well as their lifestyle and their day-to-day environment. People who spend more time doing tasks at close distance, such as working on computers and reading, seem more likely to suffer from the condition. A lack of time spent outdoors, as well as a family history of myopia are also contributing factors.
Why is it a problem?
Generally once you have myopia your prescription gets stronger over time, in particular during childhood as the eye develops. Many people develop myopia later in life, however if a child is myopic, they are at risk of their vision deteriorating much more quickly. Not only does this mean having poor vision, higher levels of myopia - particularly over -6.00DS - are also linked to an increased risk of developing eye diseases such as glaucoma, retinal detachment, macular degeneration and cataract in later life.
What is myopia control?
Myopia control aims to slow down the progression of myopia in children and young adults through the use of specialised contact lenses. It is a relatively new concept although research into the causes of myopia and how to slow its progression has been ongoing for decades. Our expertise in contact lenses allows us to provide the most advanced options available based on up to date research. Research has found the results of myopia control through the use of specialised contact lenses to be very effective.
How do the myopia control contact lenses work?
Myopia control contact lenses are designed to correct your child’s vision by slowing the process of elongation and enlargement of the eyeball. The aim of treatment is to slow the rate of decline by at least 50%. It cannot completely halt the progression, nor can it improve your child’s vision.
This can be done with specialised soft multifocal contact lenses that are worn through the day or with specially designed gas permeable lenses (orthokeratology) which are worn when asleep. Patients get used to them very quickly and their sleep is rarely affected by them. Your optometrist will advise on exact timings for your child’s individual situation.
Is this a treatment for life?
The eye does not continue to change shape for your whole life and so by late teens or early adulthood most people will find the myopia naturally stops progressing. At this stage spectacles or traditional contact lenses will become appropriate for your child’s visual correction.
Are there any downsides to wearing the lenses?
Like all lens wear there are potential risks of infection but these are hugely reduced by good compliance to the lens care advice you and your child are given. The risks of wearing myopia control contact lenses are the same as wearing ordinary contact lenses. It is also worth noting that there are no guarantees of success with the lenses.
How often will my child visit the optometrists?
As with all contact lenses there are a number of appointments required to establish the best initial lenses for your child and to assess their suitability for lens wear. After your child’s initial appointment, they will have a lens collection appointment at which they will see the optometrist who will take all the time they need to ensure they can handle the lenses safely and is available to answer any contact lens questions you or your child have. Your child will return to the practice for a check two weeks later to assess how they have found the lenses.
Your child will be expected to attend for a contact lens check on at least a six monthly basis to monitor their progress with the lenses.
Can I do anything else to help prevent myopia progression?
- Increase the amount of time your child spends outside each day. The brightness of natural light is thought to limit the rate of progression.
- Take regular breaks from close work e.g. they should looking away from their desk for a minute or so to change focus, or change tasks every 30-60 minutes to alter the focusing demands on their vision.
- Try to limit additional close work (over and above school or work) to two hours per day. This includes reading, hand held computer games, drawing, homework and computer work.
- There has been a role suggested for vitamin D in the control of myopia and, although there is currently no significant evidence to support this, supplements are also something to consider.