What is Myopia
Nearsightedness, also known as myopia, is one of the most common vision problems seen in children. Kids with this condition can usually see things close up, but struggle to see things far away. Your eye doctor’s role is not only to diagnose myopia early, but also help families understand what they can do to help slow down the progression of myopia.
A simulation of how a child with myopia can see in the classroom
Causes of myopia
The current shift towards more online or e-learning has increased the incidence of myopia. Genetic and environmental factors also play a role in the development. Studies show that children who spend at least 90 minutes in natural sunlight each day and spend less time on electronic devices, have slower rates of myopia progression. Having one or two parents who are nearsighted increases the risk of the child becoming myopic. Even if no parents are nearsighted, the risk of myopia for the child is still 25%.
This condition most often happens when the eyeball grows too much in length. As the eye grows, the power needed to correct the vision also increases. With higher amounts of myopia, the risk for vision threatening eye conditions also increase. Conditions such as retinal detachments, glaucoma and cataracts are more often seen in myopic individuals. Uncorrected, blurry vision, in children can result in significant cognitive, neurological, social and behavior effects. The consequences an affect their development, learning performance, self-esteem, social behavior and even their academic performance. Therefore early diagnosis and proper intervention is crucial.
Prevention of myopia
Due to the growing concern of myopia, extensive research has been done in order to determine ways to slow the progression. There are 3 main ways:
- Soft multifocal contact lenses. These contact lenses bend light in a way to help relax the child’s focusing system. The only FDA treatment for myopia is with a contact lens by CopperVision called MiSight. MiSight lenses can slow the progression by 50%.
- Low dose dilating drops. These drops also help relaxing the focusing system and are instilled into the eye right before bedtime. These drops have also shown to slow the progression by about 50%.
- Lastly, orthokeratology contact lenses have been well studied. These are hard contact lenses that are worn over night to help reshape the cornea so that vision correction is not needed during the day. This means that your child will not have to wear glasses or contacts during the day, because the treatment to the cornea is done through the contact lenses overnight.
It is important to start treatment as early as possible. You will have better results if you treat early because the amount of myopia that the child has prior to treatment will need go away. The goal of the treatment is to help so it doesn’t get worse.
Fortunately, glasses are not the only answer for myopia. Although they do help correct vision and allow your child to see clearly, it is important to look into options for slowing down the progression.
Dr. Gabriela Olivares was born and raised in South Florida. In 2014 she earned her degree in Optometry at Nova Southeastern University. Her undergraduate schooling was completed at the University of Central Florida, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology and Microbiology. Dr. Olivares completed externship training at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in diagnosis, management and treatment of ocular disease with emphasis on glaucoma and retinal disorders. She has extensive knowledge in myopia management involving pharmaceutical treatments and multifocal contact lenses.