Childhood myopia (nearsightedness) is common problem that may worsen year after year. Kids with myopia have good eyesight when looking at objects up close, yet objects in the distance will be fuzzy and blurred. When uncorrected, nearsighted children tend to sit closer to the television and squint to see faraway objects, such as the board in their classroom.
When annual eye exams continue to result in higher and higher prescriptions for myopia, many parents and children become concerned and worry that the vision deterioration will never end. In general, myopia that begins in childhood plateaus by 20 years of age. Yet scientists have been searching for a way to slow down and control the progression of myopia during youth.
Currently, four treatments for myopia control show extraordinary promise:
- Orthokeratology (“ortho-k”)
With ortho-k, specially designed rigid gas permeable contact lenses are used to flatten the cornea and thereby reduce mild to moderate myopia. These lenses are worn while sleeping and removed upon waking. After this corneal reshaping, many people are then able to see clearly throughout the daytime, with no eyeglasses or contacts. During the early stages of treatment with ortho-k, temporary eyeglasses or contact lenses may be needed.
Research indicates that ortho-k may diminish the lengthening of the eye, which means that wearing these lenses during childhood years may reduce myopia permanently – even if ortho-k is discontinued in adulthood.
Atropine drops are used to dilate the pupil and paralyze accommodation temporarily. The entire focusing mechanism of the eye is thereby relaxed.
Medical studies indicate that pediatric myopia may be associated with focusing fatigue. Researchers therefore investigated the use of atropine to control myopia by disabling the eye’s ability to focus. Results of these studies were impressive, yet additional research demonstrated that atropine was not effective at controlling myopia after the first year of use. Short-term use of atropine does not appear to significantly control nearsightedness over the long term.
- Multifocal Eyeglasses
Bifocal or progressive multifocal eyeglass lenses may delay the advancement of nearsightedness in some children.
According to a five year study published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, when nearsighted children with parents that both have myopia wore eyeglasses with progressive multifocal lenses, they experienced a slower progression of their own myopia than similar children who wore basic, single vision lenses.
The progression of myopia has been associated with higher levels of focusing fatigue, and it seems that the added magnification power in these multifocal lenses works to help decrease focusing fatigue during close up vision, such as reading.
- Soft Multifocal Contact Lenses
Multifocal contact lenses may be an alternative way to control myopia. A recent study conducted at The Ohio State University uncovered that wearing multifocal contacts slows the childhood progression of myopia by approximately 50%. According to this research, soft multifocal contacts may be even more helpful at myopia control than multifocal eyeglasses.