Usually, nearsightedness or myopia is a minor nuisance that can be corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses or laser eye surgery. Myopia is very common with more than 40% of Americans being myopic-a number that is rapidly rising, especially among school-aged children. Today one in four parents has a child with some degree of nearsightedness. Some eye experts believe that if your child spends an extraordinary amount of time engaged in “near” activities, such as reading or using smartphones and computers, it may raise the risk of developing myopia. Some children who develop nearsightedness have a continual progression of their myopia throughout the school years, including high school which in rare cases can lead to a progressive type called degenerative myopia that can be very serious and is a leading cause of legal blindness.
About Myopia or Nearsightedness
Myopia or nearsightedness is a common eye problem that causes distance vision to be blurry.
Generally, myopia has simply been considered a refractive error that is manageable with glasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery. Myopia has surged in prevalence over the past five decades. In 1971, 25% of Americans were myopic, compared to 33% in 2004 and by 2050, the worldwide prevalence of myopia is projected to be 54% with the highest rate and degree in the Asian population. The exact reasons for the quickly rising prevalence are not clear, however the evidence suggests that considerable increases in near work, such as screen time, and shrinking outdoor time during early eye development as well as genetic predisposition are contributing factors. While there are no specific tests to identify which individuals with myopia will progress to high myopia and be at greater adult risk, the younger the age a child is affected, the more opportunity their myopia has to progress if there is no intervention to slow it.
Most concerning is that people with myopia are more prone than others to early posterior subcapsular cataracts, myopic macular degeneration, glaucoma, retinal detachments, and retinal tears or holes.
Intervention & Myopia Control With Contact Lenses
There are several methods to treat myopia, including spectacle correction, contact lens correction, and refractive surgery. But for juvenile patients, the choices are a bit different. Treatment options for this population include orthokeratology, atropine eye drops, and daytime bifocal or multifocal contact lens wear. Children wearing multifocal contact lenses had slower progression of their myopia, according to results from a clinical trial funded by the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health and published in JAMA as the Bifocal Lenses In Nearsighted Kids (BLINK) Study. The findings support an option for controlling nearsightedness, which increases the risk of cataracts, glaucoma and retinal detachment later in life. Bifocal and multifocal contact lenses are good options for patients who either are not candidates for or have not had successful treatment with orthokeratology.
Single vision prescription glasses and contact lenses are used to correct myopic vision but fail to treat the underlying problem. Multifocal contact lenses – typically used to improve near vision of people over the age of 40 years – correct myopic vision in children while simultaneously slowing myopia progression by slowing eye growth.
Types of Contact Lenses We Use for Myopia Control
Orthokeratology (Ortho K) is a myopia control treatment method that uses precision fitted special design rigid contact lenses to reshape the cornea to correct vision in predetermined steps during sleep. The lenses are “nighttime wear” and removed upon awakening. Orthokeratology treatment restores clear vision during the waking hours usually making glasses or contact lenses unnecessary during the daytime hours. In addition, Orthokeratology treatment slows, and can actually halt the progression of myopia and vision deterioration over time. Orthokeratology lenses are fit so as to flatten the central cornea to provide clear vision and steepen the mid-peripheral cornea to control myopia.
Multifocal Soft Contact Lenses
Multifocal Soft Contact lenses (MFSCL) are daytime lenses that were originally developed for presbyopia—the common condition affecting people over 40 that causes blurry near vision, difficulty with reading and near focusing. These typically have circular zones of different prescriptions within the lens to give simultaneous focus of far-distance and close-up objects in the eye. There are many designs of MFSCL available, however research have found that particular designs, so-called “center-distance” lenses-where the center zone of the lens gives clear far-distance vision and the peripheral zones help with close-up focusing-are also effective in reducing myopia progression in children who wear these lenses daily.
Dr. Linh Chieu is a specialist in complex contact lens fitting including myopia control contact lenses. After a thorough examination and consultation for your child’s eye problem she can recommend an intervention for myopia control using the best choice of contact lens treatment options. Please book an appointment with Dr. Chieu at The Eye Care & Surgery Center by Calling 908-789-8999 or Book An Appointment Online