To the general public, myopia is known as nearsightedness. Most people who are myopic wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, enabling sharper distance vision. But myopia is much more than a vision problem. It is a potential health risk. Based on the latest scientific studies, myopia is now considered a disease, being an independent risk factor for glaucoma, cataract and retinal detachment…. The higher the myopia, the higher the risk. One researcher gave the analogy of smoking and high blood pressure in relation to heart disease. Smoking three packs a day or having very high blood pressure is worse than smoking one cigarette a week or having borderline high blood pressure. As for myopia, even at low levels, there is a risk for potential eye related effects.
So why are people myopic? There are two main factors, genetics and environmental. Genetics includes your family history of myopia, (father, mother, grandparents, etc). Environmental effects include everything else you do in life. The time you spend reading, using computers, smartphones, and tablets plays a huge role in myopia development, especially if there is a strong genetic factor. One thing eye care specialists know is that the closer your work is to your eyes, the harder your eye muscles must labor to focus. And the harder your eyes labor to focus, the more likely you are to become myopic. From a physical standpoint, an increase in myopia is almost always caused by an elongation of the eye from front to back. Remember this point as it is very important.
Additional scientific studies are showing that once a person becomes slightly myopic, they will likely continue to increase in myopia without an eye professional’s intervention.
Treatment Options For Myopia
Convention wisdom has always been to correct developing myopia in children with eyeglasses or contact lenses. I would say that over 98% of optometrists and ophthalmologists have historically subscribed to this wisdom. But that thinking is starting to change big time. In 2015, about 25% of optometrists practiced some sort of myopia control. In 2016, that percentage was about 33%. Today, that number is about 70%. Without getting too technical here, new treatments have been developed to slow down the progression of myopia by trying to control the reasons for the eye’s elongation or enlargement.
There are basically 3 methods that optometrists have of controlling myopia:
- Orthokeratology – Uses a type of gas permeable contact lens to change the shape of the front of the eye, thereby changing where the light focuses in the back of the eye.
- Atropine – An eye drop that dilates the pupil, again changing focusing ability of the eye.
- Soft multifocal contact lenses – Specially designed lenses to create multiple focuses inside the eye, resulting in reduced eye growth.
Do you see a pattern emerging here? Every management or treatment protocol involves changing where the light focuses inside the eyes.
The first choice for myopia control by optometric specialists involves the use of specialty soft contact lenses. Although most soft contact lenses look alike to the naked eye, they are very different in their design. Where and how the contact lens focuses the light plays a major role in controlling whether the eye elongates or not. As I stated earlier, when we control the eyes’ elongation, we effectively slow down or stop myopia progression.
Parents need to understand that children do not have to become highly myopic, increasing their risks for other eye disease over time. We no longer have to wait and see what happens. We can intervene to attempt to change what was once considered destiny. An investment in myopia control management is akin to investing in speech therapy. Teach a child how to speak properly now and they will be impacted for life. Prevent or reduce myopia progression and a child will be impacted for life.
For more information, please contact one of the highly trained optometrists at:
Dr. Joel Kestenbaum