Has your child been diagnosed with Myopia?
Find out how Myopia Management can help.
Maybe your child recently came home from school with a note reporting that they “failed” their routine school vision screening and are recommending further evaluation with your optometrist. Or maybe you’ve had glasses or contacts for Myopia since you were a child and knew it was only a matter of time before your kiddos started to squint to see far away objects. Either way, the loss of 20/20 vision can come as quite a shock and affects most aspects of daily life. Vision is one of our five senses and considered by many people to be one of the most important, and certainly, not one we would want to lose!
One of the most common forms of visual impairment is Myopia, also known as nearsightedness. Who is most at risk? Unfortunately, our school-aged children are most at risk for developing Myopia. In fact, Myopia is so common that it’s estimated that approximately 42% of Americans suffer from Myopia. While this is astounding in itself, the fact that this rate has almost doubled in the past three decades is extremely concerning as having Myopia puts you at higher risk of developing severe vision-threatening ocular conditions including cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachment, and macular degeneration.
What exactly is Myopia?
In basic terms, Myopia (aka nearsightedness) means that objects within a short distance to your eyes will appear clear, while objects that are further away will become blurry. Myopia occurs when either your cornea is too curved or the shape of your eye is slightly longer than it should be, which can cause light rays to refract or bend incorrectly. This refraction error causes images to be focused in front of your retina instead of on your retina.
What causes Myopia?
While Myopia is a common condition, it’s also very complex and has a multitude of causes. In general, there are a variety of genetic and environmental risk factors that can contribute to the development of myopia.
Genetic Factors: Myopia tends to run in families – if one parent is nearsighted, the risk of developing Myopia increases. If both parents are nearsighted, the risk of developing Myopia increases even more – in these cases, it’s estimated that the risk increases six-fold!
Environmental Factors: Non-genetic risk factors are a little less straightforward, but many studies have consistently demonstrated a correlation between Myopia and specific environmental factors. One of the top risk factors is lack of time spent outside in the daylight. Others include working or reading in dim light, smoking, and an excess amount of time doing “near” activities, such as reading and prolonged use of tablets, computers, or smart phones. As our society becomes more “online” and increasing numbers of children are exposed to an excessive amount of “screen-time”, these specific set of environmental risk factors are worrisome and likely predictive of ever-rising rates of Myopia in our future.
Why do we care so much about Myopia?
Myopia impacts nearly every aspect of daily life. Young children with early onset Myopia may suffer significant delays in motor, language, emotional, social and cognitive development – resulting in lifelong consequences. School-aged children with Myopia can also experience lower levels of educational achievement. This is why early detection and intervention is SO crucial – it is the key to reducing the impact of Myopia on our children’s long term ocular health and improving their future lives.
What are the warning signs of Myopia?
The good news is that screening for Myopia is widely available. Asymptomatic children should be getting routine screenings at school and their pediatrician’s office on a yearly basis. If anything is abnormal, it will be recommended to visit your optometrist for a full evaluation for Myopia and other conditions that can cause vision impairment. However, there are certain symptoms that may be a sign that your child’s vision is not operating at 100%.
- Does your child need to squint or close their eyes slightly to view objects clearly?
- Does your child make comments that distant objects appear blurry?
- Does your child experience headaches and eye strain?
- Do you notice your child rubbing their eyes a lot? Do they get watery eyes frequently?
- Does your child hold objects close to their eyes when looking at them?
If you’ve noticed your child doing any of the above, get their eyes checked! And the sooner, the better! If caught early enough, there are things that can be done to help prevent and slow down the progression of Myopia. This is what we like to refer to as Myopia Management or Myopia Control.
What is Myopia Management and why is it so important?
Once your child has been diagnosed with Myopia, it is unlikely to improve with time. To help slow the progression of Myopia, there are many Myopia Management options that could – and should – be considered:
- Glasses or Contact Lenses. The first step of Myopia Management is to correct your child’s blurred distance vision. This is done via prescription glasses or contact lenses, depending on the age of your child and comfort level. As Myopia tends to worsen over time, this requires at least yearly optometry evaluations to adjust the prescription strength if indicated.
- MiSight Contact Lenses. A common starting point for older children would be to invest in quality contact lenses. The Multifocal Soft Contact Lenses developed by MiSight could be a great option for adolescents, especially those who are in sports or otherwise very active. For children who participate in sports, such as swimming, football, and wrestling, contact lenses may be better suited for these activities. These contact lenses can provide extra support for the eye, resulting in a slowdown of Myopia symptoms between 25-72%!
- Orthokeratology. Another option would be to look into OrthoK treatment solutions, often referred to as Corneal Molding. This form of Myopia Management involves sleeping with specially designed corneal molds which are removed when you wake up. These fancy shmancy rigid gas-permeable contact lenses help to change the curvature of the cornea for clearer vision the very next day! They also help to slow the progression of Myopia over time.
- Atropine Therapy. This form of therapy is becoming increasingly more common as a Myopia Management solution. Atropine eye drops work by relaxing the eye’s focusing mechanisms, helping to slow down the progression of Myopia.
So, now what?
Sadly, curing your child’s Myopia is not really within the grasp of science at this moment in time. By using Myopia Management techniques, however, you can help slow down the development and impact of your child’s Myopia while restoring better vision for them. If your child has Myopia, or you are worried that they may have Myopia, the first step is to book an appointment with your optometrist today! Optometric exams are non-invasive and provide very useful information on the health of your child’s eyes and what options are available to help them see better now, AND in the future!