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I’m concerned that my child’s prescription for short-sightedness (myopia) keeps increasing.  Is there anything I can do about this?

Myopia in children is an issue of global concern, and rates of myopia and increasing around the world.  It is estimated that if current prevalence rates of myopia continue, there will be over 2.5 billion people with myopia by 2020.  Of even greater concern is the rate of high myopia, which was less than 3% of the world population in 2010 but is estimated to grow to 10% by 2050.  High myopia significantly increases the risk of serious eye diseases such as retinal detachment, cataract and myopic macular degeneration.  So if your child is myopic it is important that their level of myopia be kept as low as possible, and concerns regarding increasing myopia are certainly justified.

There are two main risk factors for developing myopia in the first place, namely lifestyle and family history.  Modern lifestyles may influence the development of myopia, especially where children spend little time outdoors, and also when they perform prolonged near tasks such as viewing digital devices and reading.  So if your child is not already myopic, you can help by ensuring they spend enough time outdoors (1-2 hours a day) and avoiding excessive time on concentrated near tasks.

There are currently three main options for slowing the progress of myopia.  These are orthokeratology using rigid gas permeable contact lenses, soft multifocal contact lenses, or atropine eye drops.  The two contact lens options also offer the benefit of providing clear distance vision because they correct myopia as well as slow it down; atropine drops slow myopia down but glasses are still required to see clearly in the distance.  Sometimes atropine drops are used in conjunction with one of the contact lens options, although the evidence is not completely clear at this stage whether using two strategies has an additional effect.  None of these strategies reverses myopia or stops its progression completely, but it is important to slow progression as much as possible.

Orthokeratology involves the overnight wear of contact lenses while sleeping.  These lenses have the effect of flattening the cornea, the tissue at the front of the eye, thereby correcting myopia and providing clear distance vision.  Ortho k slows myopic progression by creating blur on the peripheral sections of the retina. This has the effect of slowing down myopia (the wearer is generally unaware of this peripheral blur).  Soft multifocal lenses are worn during the day and also have the effect of providing clear distance vision but blurring the peripheral retina.  Soft lenses are usually provided in daily disposable form.

Parents are often concerned whether their child is too young to wear contact lenses, but studies have shown that children aged 8-12 wearing contact lenses conform to instruction slightly better than old children.  Of course not all children are suited to contact lens wear, but generally speaking, age should not be a barrier to wearing lenses safely and successfully.

If you are interested in learning more about myopia control and how it may be of benefit to your child we encourage you to schedule an appointment with one of our optometrists