IS THERE A CURE TO SHORT-SIGHTEDNESS (MYOPIA) IN CHILDREN?
If your child has myopia (nearsightedness), you’re probably wondering if there is a cure or at least something that can be done to slow its progression so your child doesn’t need stronger glasses year after year. For years, eye care practitioners and researchers have been wondering the same thing and there’s good news: A number of recent studies suggest it may indeed be possible to at least control myopia by slowing its progression during childhood and among teenagers.
What Is Myopia Control?
Although an outright cure for near-sightedness has not been discovered your eye doctor can now offer a number of treatments that may be able to slow the progression of myopia. These treatments can induce changes in the structure and focusing of the eye to reduce stress and fatigue associated with the development and progression of near-sightedness.
What is progressive myopia?
Progressive myopia is near-sightedness that continues to worsen year after year. This progression can result in severe myopia (also called high myopia) that may be associated with potentially serious side effects.
- Atropine Eye Drops
Atropine eye drop have been used for myopia control for many years, with effective short-term result. Topical atropine is a medicine used to dilate the pupil thereby temporarily paralyze accommodation and completely relax the eyes’ focusing mechanism.
Because research has suggested near-sightedness in children may be linked to focusing fatigue, investigators have looked into using atropine to disable the eye’s focusing mechanism to control myopia.
Drawbacks of atropine treatment include discomfort and light sensitivity from prolonged pupil dilation, blurred near vision, and the added expense of the child needing bifocals or progressive eyeglass lenses during treatment to be able to read clearly, since his or her near focusing ability is affected.
Orthokeratology is the use of specially designed gas permeable contact lenses that are worn during sleep at night to temporarily correct near-sightedness and other vision problems so glasses and contact lenses aren’t needed during waking hours.
- Multifocal Contact Lenses
Multifocal contacts are special lenses that have different powers in different zones of the lens to correct presbyopia as well as near-sightedness or farsightedness (with or without astigmatism).
- Multifocal Eyeglasses
Multifocal eyeglasses also have been tested for myopia control in children, but results have been less impressive than those produced with multifocal contacts.
Detecting Myopia Early
The best way to take advantage of methods to control myopia is to detect near-sightedness early. Even if your child is not complaining of vision problems (near-sighted kids often are excellent students and have no visual complaints when reading or doing other schoolwork), it’s important to schedule routine eye exams for your children, starting before they enter preschool. Early childhood eye exams are especially important if you or your spouse are near-sighted or your child’s older siblings have myopia or other vision problems.
- Holden, B. A., Fricke, T. R., Wilson, D. A., Jong, M., Naidoo, K. S., Sankaridurg, P., … & Resnikoff, S. (2016). Global prevalence of myopia and high myopia and temporal trends from 2000 through 2050. Ophthalmology, 123(5), 1036-1042.
- Rusnak, S., Salcman, V., Hecova, L., & Kasl, Z. (2018). Myopia progression risk: Seasonal and lifestyle variations in axial length growth in czech children. Journal of ophthalmology, 2018.
Author: Jacob Onyango, Optometrist, Imara Mediplus Hospital