You may have heard of myopia before, or perhaps your child was diagnosed with this refractive error during their annual eye exam. Myopia is nearsightedness, meaning it causes distant vision to appear blurry. It can also increase your child’s risk of certain eye diseases later in life.
While myopia can’t be cured once it’s developed, several management options can help slow its progression or prevent it from worsening. These methods may include atropine drops, orthokeratology, multifocal contact lenses, or myopia control glasses.
There isn’t a single “best” option for control because it ultimately depends on the severity of your child’s myopia and their vision needs. An optometrist can offer advice for effective solutions during a comprehensive children’s eye exam.
What Is Myopia?
Myopia, or “nearsightedness,” is a common eye condition affecting your ability to see distant objects clearly. If you’re myopic, you can read or use your smartphone without needing glasses, but street signs or a movie screen are blurry.
Myopia occurs because the eye is longer than it should be, causing light to focus in front of the retina rather than directly on it.
Myopia often develops during childhood and gradually worsens as you grow. It affects approximately 30% of Canadians, and researchers estimate that 50% of the world’s population will be affected by nearsightedness by 2050.
What Is Myopia Control?
Myopia control refers to specific techniques used to slow or stop the progression of myopia in children and young adults. It’s crucial because myopia can affect quality of life and eye health. Myopia is associated with an increased risk of developing certain eye conditions. Those with high levels of myopia have a higher likelihood of developing diseases like retinal detachment, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. These conditions can lead to vision loss if not managed properly.
Managing myopia and correcting vision is also crucial for supporting children’s overall development. Their eyes are vital to their growth, learning, and well-being.
Clear eyesight allows children to see the whiteboard, read books, and engage with educational materials effectively. By managing myopia and providing corrective measures like glasses or contact lenses, we can help your child see what they need during school.
But it’s not just about academics. Children rely on their eyes to explore and interact with the world. Whether playing sports, socializing with peers, or enjoying outdoor activities, clear vision enables them to participate and develop motor skills, coordination, and spatial awareness.
Myopia Control Methods
Several effective myopia control methods are available. The effective treatment for your child depends on factors like their lifestyle, vision needs, and severity of the refractive error.
Atropine Eye Drops
Atropine is a medication used to dilate the pupils. In low doses, it can relax the eye muscles, reducing the stress applied to the eye’s growth. Studies have shown that an amount of 0.1% to 0.5% atropine eye drops can effectively slow down myopia progression up to 50% while balancing minimal side effects.
Orthokeratology, or ortho-k, is a non-surgical method of reshaping the cornea using specialized contact lenses. The lens is worn overnight, temporarily reshapes the cornea, and prevents the need for eyewear during the day.
Studies have indicated that ortho-k treatment can effectively slow myopia progression in children over 12 years. Compared to wearing standard glasses or contact lenses, ortho-k has reduced myopia progression by around half.
Multifocal Contact Lenses
Multifocal contact lenses contain different prescriptions in different areas of the lens, enabling the wearer to see both near and far objects. This design not only helps improve vision but can also slow myopia progression.
Multifocal contact lenses have shown promising results in slowing down the progress of myopia in children. They have been found to be as effective as orthokeratology contact lenses and more effective than bifocal glasses.
Another method for myopia control is prescription glasses. Executive bifocal lenses have traditionally been used as an effective form of myopia control. But there is some specific lens technology available now that may be beneficial for your child’s vision. Essilor Stellest, Hoya MiYOSMART, and SightGlass Vision Diffusion Optics Technology are 3 lenses designed for slowing myopia in children.
It’s not possible to prevent myopia. It’s a complex condition influenced by genetic, environmental, and external factors. However, we can take certain measures to somewhat control the environmental and external factors.
Outdoor Time & Sunlight Exposure
Studies have shown that outdoor time and sunlight exposure can significantly reduce the risk of developing myopia in children. You should aim for your child to get at least 2 hours of outdoor time every day.
Screen Time Management
The digital age has increased the risk of myopia among children. Excessive screen time can also lead to uncomfortable conditions like dry eye or eye strain. A few tips to help manage a child’s screen time include:
- The elbow rule: Keep screens or books an elbow-to-hand distance away from the eyes.
- 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away. Even if a child doesn’t do something so specific, it’s essential to take regular breaks when doing close-up visual tasks like reading or using digital screens.
- 2-hour rule: Keep leisure use of screen time to 2 hours a day. Work or school may require more, so emphasize limiting unnecessary screen time.
A healthy diet is essential for overall health and well-being but also affects eye health. Foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins C and E, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids benefit eye health. Incorporating leafy greens, fish, nuts, and seeds into your child’s diet can help support their growing eyes.
Although the existing research doesn’t tie nutrition directly to an increased risk of myopia, studies have shown a direct correlation between diet and other eye conditions and diseases. Maintaining a healthy diet can lessen the risk of other eye-related complications if a child or young adult develops myopia.
Regular Eye Checkups & Myopia
Even if we can’t prevent myopia, an optometrist can often recommend ways to slow or stop myopia progression. This highlights the importance of regular comprehensive eye exams, as recommended by your eye doctor and the Canadian Association of Optometrists, which is typically an annual exam for most kids until 19. Alberta Health Care covers annual children’s eye exams.
Contact us at Red Deer Eye Care today to book your child’s next eye exam.