Are you a parent who is concerned about your child’s longterm eyesight? Are you frustrated that every year their glasses only get thicker and thicker with no end in sight? Thanks to recent research in myopia control, we now can be proactive with your child’s vision instead of only reactive!
Why is Myopia Control Important?
Let’s first start with some definitions. Myopia is the term we use to describe the condition of being near-sighted. Generally speaking, this is when it is much more difficult for you to see in the distance than it is up close. Now this does not mean that your near vision is necessarily good, it just means it’s better than your distance vision. If you have mild myopia, classified as a glasses prescription anywhere from -0.50 to -3.00, you need glasses for seeing in the distance, but you can comfortably read a book held at arms length away without the need for glasses. Moderate myopic patients fall between -3.25 and -5.75, and are even more reliant on distance glasses, and can only read small print without glasses if it is held very close. Once myopia progresses past -6.00, it is classified as severe myopia, and glasses or contact lenses are required to see past a few inches.
Moderate to severe myopia has substantial financial implications as well. When myopia increases to -4.00 or greater, glasses lenses get too thick to fit comfortably in a frame. Hi-index lens materials are necessary to keep the lenses thin, but they make your child’s glasses much more expensive. Further, while refractive surgery such as LASIK is an option for many myopic patients, once the amount of myopia progresses past a certain level, LASIK is no longer safe to perform. These patients cannot function without glasses or contact lenses, and will be completely dependent on them for the rest of their lives.
Not only does myopia lead to an inability to function without glasses or contacts, there are also significant health concerns associated with myopic eyes. Myopia has been classified as an epidemic by the World Health Organization, and is expected to increase to 52% of the worldwide population by 20501. Myopia drastically increases the risk of potentially permanent vision loss2. Retinal detachments are the biggest concern, and can affect patients of all ages. In a retinal detachment, the retina (similar in function and location to the film of a camera) starts to tear away from the back of the eye. This can cause immediate vision loss and usually presents with bright flashes of light and a sudden increase in floaters, but sometimes has no symptoms at all. If this is not treated immediately, it can result in permanent blindness. Unfortunately, your risk for a retinal detachment increases in proportion to the amount of myopia you have. High myopia also increases your risk of glaucoma and myopic macular degeneration. These sinister diseases slowly affect your vision over a few years. In most cases the progression is so slow that you will not notice any changes in your vision until it nears end-stage. At that point, there is little we can do from a treatment standpoint. This is why an annual eye exam is important for every person, but it is especially necessary for patients with myopia. We can detect changes in the health of your eyes before you notice any symptoms, and start you on the appropriate treatments promptly.
Given the prevalence and the severity of complications, there is currently much research being done on risk factors. These include one or both parents who are myopic. If either you or your partner have moderate to high myopia, your child is at much higher risk to develop high myopia and the associated complications. Research also found that not spending much time outside also increases the risk of myopia, although the exact mechanism is not fully understood.
Until recently, nothing could be done to slow down the progression of myopia. However, numerous peer-reviewed studies have been completed demonstrating the effectiveness of 3 treatment options that have been proven to slow down the progression of myopia in children by about 50% each. Stay tuned for the following blog posts, were we will discuss when Myopia Control Treatment is recommended, and the pros and cons of each treatment option.