Mobile Alabama optometrist, Dr. Gregory Jackson, a myopia expert, discusses Myopia Control in children.
What Is Myopia?
Myopia is a refractive error which is commonly known as either nearsighted or shortsighted. Another popular name for myopia is school myopia because it tends to manifest as children enter school (around the age of 8-12). In the past a patient with myopia was given glasses and the issue was not given too much thought. Over the last 30 years eye doctors and researchers started giving myopia more thought for two reasons.
- Myopia is becoming more and more common, with the number of Americans between the ages of 12-54 with myopia doubling from 1970-2005 from 25% to close to 50%! And the trend continues to increase, with close to 90% of high school and college students in China who are myopic.
- Recent research has shown a very large correlation between high myopia and eye diseases which can cause vision loss and in some cases even blindness. As this is obviously a very serious concern, eye doctors and researchers have taken the charge of educating patients about the risks and methods of minimizing those risks by reducing the progression of myopia.
The risks include:
♦ 4-10 times increased risk of retinal tears and detachment depending on the severity of the myopia.
♦ Increase risk of cataracts.
♦ Decreased effectiveness of cataract surgery.
♦ 200% or more increase in the risk of glaucoma.
Ortho K is a revolutionary treatment whereby the patient wears special contacts that are made to the exact specifications of the patient eye while they sleep. The contact then gently reshapes the eye, leaving the patient with 20/20 vision (in most cases) during the day without the need for contacts or glasses. While Ortho-k was originally created as a Lasik replacement, it was quickly seen as a highly effective method at reducing the progression of myopia. Considered by most expert eye doctors to be the most effective method of myopia control that is available today reducing myopia progression on average by 40%. In addition to the benefits of myopia control, orthokeratology has many other benefits such as:
- Improved self esteem.
- Reduction of risk from sports related or work related eye injuries.
- Removal of some common symptoms from contact lens use like dry eyes.
Multifocal contact lenses have been researched pretty heavily over the last 10 years to evaluate their effectiveness in reducing myopia with great results. The latest research is showing a reduction of 30% of progression for children aged 8-12 who wear multifocal's. The big contact lens companies have taken an interest by offering specially designed contacts that more effectively reduce myopia progression. The big benefit of multifocal's is their price when compared to Orthokeratology. While Ortho-K is considered the "gold-standard" of myopia control in many cases the cost can be a large deterrent. Kids who wear contacts from as young as 8 years old have reported many other benefits over glasses such as:
- Improved self esteem.
- Prevention of eye injuries from sports
- Better peripheral vision as the contact sits closer to the eye than glasses
When Should My Child Start Myopia Control?
Myopia control is most effective when started as young as possible. For this reason it is recommended by the American Optometric Association that children go for an eye exam before entering first grade, and then every 2 years if they have no vision issues. If the optometrist diagnoses the child as having myopia, then the experts all agree that either Ortho-K or Multi Focal contacts should be started as a means of reducing the progression. In addition to the methods above, our optometrist recommends that all children and even more so children with myopia spend as close to 2 hours per day outside. An analysis of research on myopia control showed an average reduction of 2% for every additional hour per week the child spent outside.