Myopia (nearsightedness) has no known cure, but there are treatments and management strategies that are vitally important when a child has myopia. Myopia is not just an inconvenience. It can have serious sight-threatening consequences in adulthood.
What is Myopia?
Myopia is the most prevalent refractive error. It occurs when the focusing power of the eye is too high, causing light rays to focus in front of the light-sensitive retina rather than directly on it.
Myopia is most often caused by the cornea, the front of the eye, having a high focusing power or the length of the eye being too long. Both result in blurry vision as the light entering the eye is not focused directly on the retina.
Nearsighted people see distant items as blurry, while nearby objects may remain clear, depending on the amount of myopia. Although eyeglasses and standard contact lenses can correct a person's vision, they do not cure or slow down myopia’s progression.
When the amount of myopia increases at a rapid rate, such as over the course of just one year, it’s recommended that the deterioration be investigated by an eye doctor.
Myopia usually starts in childhood, and can increase when the eyeballs are rapidly growing. It can progress slowly or quickly, especially between the ages of 8 and 18, when it typically stabilizes.
The progression of myopia isn't just about the need for stronger glasses; if myopia worsens, the child is more likely to develop serious eye diseases like cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and retinal detachment later in life. These disorders can result in irreversible vision loss or blindness.
Treatments to Slow and Prevent Myopia Progression
While there is no cure for myopia, there are a number of treatments that can slow its progression and sometimes stop it completely in children and teenagers.
These treatments can cause changes in the shape and focusing of the eye, reducing the stress and fatigue that comes with nearsightedness.
There are three different specialized treatment options to slow the progression of myopia.
- Orthokeratology (Ortho-k)
- Atropine eye drops
- Multifocal contact lenses
Our experts work directly with each family to create treatment plans for every child that are tailored to their specific needs. We thoroughly evaluate the child’s vision, prescribe the treatment most suited to them, and track their progress to ensure the best possible outcome. Follow-up visits are usually scheduled every 6-12 months to evaluate the treatment's effectiveness.
Ortho-k contact lenses are custom-fit contact lenses that are worn only at night and have been demonstrated to slow the progression of myopia by gently reshaping the cornea as the child sleeps. This allows the child to have clear vision the next morning, without needing eyewear because of the temporary change in corneal shape.
While commonly used to dilate the pupils during certain eye tests, a recent study published in Ophthalmology (2019) found that low-dose atropine eye drops (0.01%) applied before bedtime can successfully slow the progress of myopia in children.
Multifocal soft contact lenses, and multifocal glasses, provide clear vision at a variety of focal distances. The National Institutes of Health (2020) funded a clinical trial that compared multifocal lenses to single vision lenses. They found that using multifocal soft contact lenses or eyeglasses slows the progression of myopia.
Other ways to slow or prevent myopia
Outdoor activity and natural light
According to a recent study published by Ophthalmic Research (2020), children who spend more time outside (at least 14 hours per week) have less myopia and elongation of the eye than those who spend fewer hours outdoors.
Limited time on devices
Another study, published by PLOS One (2015), found a relationship between near-work activities and myopia progression. While more research is needed, various studies have found that excessive time spent on near-work activities like reading a book, using a computer and playing games on digital devices are linked to myopia. As a result, eye doctors recommend that parents keep track of and limit the amount of time their child spends on a phone or other digital devices.
If you're worried about your child's myopia, book a myopia management assessment to determine if they could benefit from this life-changing treatment. The age of the child, as well as their maturity level and lifestyle, will all play a role in determining when to begin myopia management.
Speak with Dr. Samuel C. Oliphant, who will advise you on the best myopia management treatment options for your child’s vision and lifestyle.
- A: Progressive myopia is nearsightedness that worsens year after year. Severe myopia, also known as high myopia, can develop as a result of this trend, which can have significant consequences in adulthood.
- A: Myopia in childhood has been linked to serious, vision-threatening eye conditions like glaucoma and macular degeneration later in life. In addition, extreme myopia can progress to a stage known as degenerative myopia, which can result in significant loss of vision and even legal blindness.