Myopia (nearsightedness) is the most common refractive error of the eye, causing the affected to have trouble seeing distant objects. In this case the eyeball is too long and light focuses in front of the retina (back surface of the eye) instead of directly on it.
The exact cause of nearsightedness is not known, but the biggest predictor of whether a child will become nearsighted is genetics. However, family history by no means tells the whole story.
In the 1970s about 25% of the US population was nearsighted. As of 2004, it was upwards of 42%. In such a short period of time, what has changed? How we use our eyes, for starters. There has been some association with progression of nearsightedness and the amount of time spent indoors doing near tasks such as computer work and reading.
Myopia has long been treated with glasses, contact lenses and more recently, refractive surgery. Aside from dependence on correction or needing surgery, what’s the big deal?
Myopia typically begins in childhood and progresses as the child grows, quite often stabilizing when a person is fully grown. Cases where the vision continues to decline are becoming more common. The is called progressive, or degenerative myopia. The more myopic the eye becomes, the higher their risk of sight- threatening problems such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and retinal detachments.
What can be done about this?
Eyediology Vision Care is pioneering a Myopia Control Program tailored to the needs of individual patients. Research has shown that there are several interventions that can slow down myopia progression in children.
Multifocal contact lens fittings under the guidance of an optometrist has been shown to slow myopic progression by an average of 37%. In this treatment the patient is fit in a contact lens that corrects their near vision as well as an added prescription to keep the eye from over focusing for near work. The lenses used are soft contact lenses that are quite comfortable. This is a fantastic option for young patients already wearing contact lenses and those who are very active.
Orthokeratology is a treatment that shows about 40% reduction in myopic progression. In this treatment modality, a patient is fit in a custom hard contact lens that mold the front surface of the eye to flatten it. The contact lens is worn overnight and the patient is able to go without correction in some cases throughout the day due to the sustained effects. The downside to the this treatment is that it does wear off over time and the lenses can be more costly. This may not be a great option for those patients who are driving at night.
The newest, most favored option is a pharmaceutical treatment with 0.01% Atropine eye drops. The drops are instilled at night time and the patient is able to wear their habitual type of correction (glasses or contacts) throughout the day. This intervention has been proven to be most effective with a slowing effect of 60%. Patients tend to like this method because of how low maintenance the therapy is. The patient is monitored at regular intervals to look for any potential rare side effects such as light sensitivity or trouble focusing at near.
“I have been treating some of my young some of my young patients who are at the highest risk for progressive myopia over the past year.” said Dr. Burke. “I have been so pleased with the results, some of them have stopped progressing all together, most have slowed down very significantly and have not reported any adverse side effects.”
Another option that is used on its own or in combination with other myopia control treatments are prescription progressive addition lenses or bifocals in glasses. This method along does not have the same level of efficacy as the above options, but there are ongoing studies showing the efficacy of combining this with other methods such as Atropine Therapy.
Eyediology Vision Care is the premier practice in Las Vegas for Myopia Control. Our doctors offer free consultations to review each patients individual needs and goals for myopia control. Together with the patients and their families Dr. Burke and Dr. Murphy will tailor a customized plan to reduce the risks of complications later in life due to excessive nearsightedness.