Myopia, also known as nearsightedness, is a common vision problem that often develops during childhood. Unfortunately, once myopia is present, it cannot be reversed. Several effective myopia control methods exist that your child’s eye doctor can use to stop or slow its progression and prevent future vision problems.
Children’s eye exams play a crucial role in detecting and treating myopia. But that’s not all they’re good for. During an eye exam, your child’s eye doctor can check for other eye conditions, like farsightedness or astigmatism. Plus, they can check your child’s overall eye health. After all, we only get one set of eyes, so regular visits to the eye doctor should begin early in life.
What Is Myopia?
Myopia is a refractive error that causes distant objects to appear blurred while close-up objects remain clear. It occurs when the eye grows too long or the cornea’s curvature is too steep. As a result, light entering the eye focuses in front of the retina instead of directly on it.
Myopia often begins during childhood, between the ages of 6 and 12. While it can be corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses, or laser eye surgery, myopia can lead to serious eye complications later in life.
What Causes Myopia?
A few contributing factors can contribute to myopia development. Genetics plays a significant role, but environmental factors, such as reading, using computers, and not spending enough time outdoors, can also contribute to its onset and progression.
What Are the Symptoms of Myopia?
The primary symptom of myopia is blurry distance vision. Other symptoms include:
- Frequent headaches
- Eye strain
- Eye fatigued
Children with myopia may think their vision is normal and not complain about their vision problems. Some child-specific symptoms may include:
- Poor school performance
- Short attention span (nearsightedness has been misdiagnosed as ADHD)
- Holding things closer to their face than usual
- Squinting and rubbing their eyes
What Are the Risks of Myopia?
- Retinal detachment
- Macular degeneration
Myopia Control Methods
Slowing myopia can help support good eye health and reduce the risk of associated complications. It’s best to slow down myopia progression during childhood because the eyes are still developing and more responsive to intervention. As children grow, their eyes undergo significant changes, and this is when myopia tends to progress at a faster rate.
By implementing strategies to manage myopia early on, there’s a higher chance of effectively slowing down its progression and reducing the risk of severe nearsightedness in adulthood.
Various methods for managing myopia progression are available, including atropine eye drops, specialty contact lenses and eyeglasses, and orthokeratology.
Atropine Eye Drops
Atropine with concentrations ranging from 0.01% to 0.05% has been found to cause minimal side effects in children aged 4 to 12 years when treatment began. A study done over three years revealed that these lower concentrations were safe, well tolerated, and had hardly any side effects.
The effectiveness of low-dose atropine varies between 30 and 50%, depending on the concentration.
Eyeglasses & Contact Lenses
Executive bifocal lenses can provide moderate myopia control. But more advanced lens technologies that are now specifically designed for myopia control show better results:
As an alternative to eyeglasses, specialty contacts are also available and effective at slowing myopia:
MiSight 1-day contact lenses currently have the most supporting data.
Orthokeratology (ortho-k) uses custom-made gas-permeable lenses that your child wears overnight. These lenses gently reshape the cornea and can reduce the need for glasses or contacts during the day. Ortho-k is also around 50% effective in controlling myopia.
Can Myopia Be Prevented?
Myopia can’t be prevented. But you can minimize your child’s risk of developing it by encouraging plenty of time outside in natural light, limiting screen time and unnecessary close work, and encouraging them to take breaks during times of heavy eye use.
Eye exams are also essential for staying ahead of myopia and other changes in the eyes. While eye exams won’t prevent eye conditions, they can help detect issues early and employ treatments and management strategies that help protect your child’s vision.