Myopia is the medical term for nearsightedness. Myopia control is a relatively new concept of slowing the increase of nearsightedness that many children and young adults experience. Nearsightedness occurs when the eyeball grows too long, which causes light to focus in front of the retina rather than directly on it. This results in blurred distance vision and the need for glasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery to compensate for it. Myopia control is a program administered, prescribed, and followed by an eye doctor. The prevalence of myopia has increased dramatically over the past few decades. Myopia has increased in the US 65% since the 1970s. Estimates show that by 2050 nearly half of the world’s population will be nearsighted. We aren’t exactly sure why this has occurred but studies show that increased near work, digital device use and less time spent outside are contributing factors. Some of the amount of nearsightedness one has is hereditary, but some of it is environmental. We can only attempt to control or slow down the amount that is environmentally induced.
The reason we hope to slow down myopia has more to do with the health benefits of being less nearsighted, rather than just the bothersome need to change eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions every year or more often. Patients with increased nearsightedness have a higher risk of developing retinal complications like retinal detachment and macular disease. They also have higher rates of early cataract formation and glaucoma. Myopia control programs have been shown to decrease nearsighted progression by approximately 50%.
We used to believe that under-correcting the full amount of nearsightedness was helpful in slowing down the progression, but recent studies have shown that under correction actually hastened myopia progression. Therefore we are no longer using under-correction as a strategy.
The myopia control program at The Eye Center includes one of three different strategies to slow progression. During your eye exam, we will discuss which option will be best for your child. At each visit, we will measure the axial length of your child’s eyeball to see how much (if any) the length has changed. We will also be checking visual acuity and prescription for any changes along with eye health.
The most effective myopia control strategy is the use of atropine eye drops used once daily. These drops reduce the eye’s ability to change focus and over focus. This effect works by relaxing the focusing system. Some studies show that atropine may be the most effective strategy at slowing myopia progression by up to 77%. Another option for patients that have the ability to insert and remove contact lenses is multifocal contact lens wear. Cooper vision recently released its MiSignt contact lens which is FDA approved for myopia control in the US. A recent study showed that nearsighted children who wore multifocal contact lenses had a 50% reduction in myopia compared to similarly nearsighted children who wore regular soft contact lenses in the same time period. For patients that cannot tolerate daily eye drops or contact lens wear, we use multifocal eyeglasses. These work similarly to multifocal contact lenses. However, many of the studies show that multifocal glasses have the seem to have only a mild slowing effect, but newer lens designs are being tested specifically for myopia progression and hopefully will come to market soon. One of the easiest things that can be done is to make sure your child is spending an hour or more outdoors each day, with UV eye protection. For more information visit www.mykidsvision.org. and contact us at The Eye Center.