Eye Exams Are Necessary to Diagnose, Treat & Control Myopia
There’s a lot of talk nowadays about myopia and “myopia control” as a part of kids’ eye care. Defined simply, myopia refers to nearsightedness – which means that when your child looks at objects in the distance, they appear blurry. At the beginning, kids may not complain about any vision problems, yet parents and teachers may notice them squinting constantly to see the board or anything far away. This is a warning sign that it’s time for a pediatric eye exam! A comprehensive evaluation of your kid’s vision is the only reliable way to detect or rule out myopia or any vision problem. Additionally, routine eye exams enable early intervention, which goes far towards the eye health and general well-being of your child.
What causes nearsightedness?
Typically, myopia is genetic. (If your family has a history of being nearsighted, you have even more reason to schedule routine eye exams for your kids!) It is characterized by an elongated eyeball, which affects the way light focuses in front of the retina. Myopia often deteriorates throughout childhood and its progression stops by about twenty years old. However, at that time your child may need very strong corrective lenses in order to see clearly.
How is myopia treated?
Eyeglasses have always been the first line of treatment for myopia. However, new research shows that dual-focus contact lenses or orthokeratology may be a better option for vision correction, as they can also decelerate the progression. Many children with myopia find that their vision gets worse with time, and they need a new, more powerful prescription for lenses at every eye exam. Not only does this lead to thicker, unattractive eyeglass lenses, but it is also associated with a higher risk of eye disease in the future, such as cataracts, glaucoma and retinal detachment. Fortunately, that’s where myopia control enters the picture!
What is myopia control?
While there is no way to prevent or cure nearsightedness, various methods show promise for controlling the progression. Orthokeratology, better known as ortho-k, and dual-focus contact lenses are two relatively new ways to put the brakes on myopia.
The results of a comprehensive three-year long study were shared recently at the British Contact Lens Association Clinical Conference in Liverpool, England. 144 myopic children, aged 8 to 12, participated in this study, and the results showed that wearing dual-focus contact lenses was highly effective in controlling myopia with no side effects reported. These lenses, which have alternating zones for visual correction and treatment, slowed the progression of nearsightedness by 59%!
Ortho-k, or Corneal Refractive Therapy (CRT) is another option for kids who want to see sharp without wearing eyeglasses or daytime contact lenses. Using advanced digital technology, your child’s eye doctor will map your cornea to custom-design your ortho-k lenses. These specialized lenses are worn only while sleeping when they gently reshape the cornea to correct refractive error. During the day, your kid will have crystal-clear vision without any eyewear. Because ortho-k lenses mold the cornea and suppress the eyeball from growing further, they also suppress the progression of myopia. Ortho-k has shown tremendous success as a comfortable and safe way to control myopia in kids. Also called vision shaping, ortho-k involves wearing specialized hard, gas permeable lenses while you sleep. These lenses gently mold your cornea into a new shape, thereby resolving any refractive error and correcting myopia. When you wake up in the morning, you’ll be able to remove the lenses and enjoy crystal-clear eyesight. The effects generally last one to two days, so the ortho-k lenses must be inserted nightly on a regular basis.
Which kids are good candidates for ortho-k?
Any nearsighted child with healthy eyes is a possible candidate for orthokeratology. Regular eye exams with visual acuity testing are a necessary part of proper kids’ eye care. If your child has myopia and their vision prescription continually increases at each eye exam, ortho-k may be a good option. Our Eye Doctors will evaluate your child’s vision and ocular condition to determine candidacy. Please contact us to schedule an appointment to discuss orthokeratology.
Benefits of Ortho-k for Kids
Myopia, always common in children, is an increasing problem. The number of kids who are nearsighted has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. The reason for this remains blurry, yet one possible culprit is the increased amount of time kids spend indoors gazing at digital screens, with limited exposure to natural light. Many parents are alarmed by their child’s need for a new vision prescription yearly, and parents and kids are disturbed by the increasing thickness of their eyeglass lenses.
Ortho-k offers an efficient way to slow, or possibly stop, the continued progression of nearsightedness in kids. In case you’re wondering why surgery isn’t a better option, keep in mind that laser procedures, such as LASIK, are not suitable for young children. As studies have demonstrated that orthokeratology is safe for all ages, it is currently regarded as the ideal option for myopia control in kids.
Additionally, ortho-k for kids also grants freedom to children who don’t want to be bothered by inconvenient eyewear. Frames are always falling off or being left behind, and replacement eyeglasses or repairs can run very high fees for parents. Ortho-k lenses are only worn in bed, so there’s virtually no risk of kids losing or damaging them. Regular contact lenses are often a poor choice for kids who spend a lot of their days in dusty, dirty playfields, and/or who are not able to commit to sterilizing contacts regularly.
Eye Exams are the First Step towards Treating & Controlling Myopia
Eye exams to check children for myopia are an essential part of responsible family eye care! Don’t wait until your child’s vision condition advances and it is too late to treat it effectively. Maximize your kid’s healthy vision with routine pediatric eye exams – and ask us whether he or she is a good candidate for myopia control!
Dr. Fuerst has co-authored a recently published study detailing the benefits of contact lens fittings on Myopia control in children. Click here to read more.