Myopia Control – Slowing the Progression of Nearsightedness in Children
Myopia is a fancy word for nearsightedness, something most everybody is familiar with. People that are nearsighted have no problem seeing things close up like books or tablets, but have difficulty seeing things at a distance like road signs, the clock on the far wall, or faces in a distant crowd.
It is said that in the year 2000, roughly 25 percent of the world's population was nearsighted, but by the year 2050, it's expected that roughly half the people on the planet will be myopic.¹
People generally begin to have symptoms of myopia in childhood, with progression increasing during adolescence. Those whose parents are nearsighted have a higher risk of developing it themselves at some point in their lives. Nearsightedness typically stabilizes as we reach adulthood once it is established, but your eye doctor can slow the progression of myopia in children with early diagnosis.
Myopia Symptoms and Causes
Besides the most obvious symptom of myopia, having trouble seeing things far away, yet seeing things clearly that are close up, people developing nearsightedness often complain of headaches, eye strain, and squinting, as well as difficulty seeing while driving or at play where you’re required to be constantly focused and aware of things close and at distance.
Myopia is caused by a misshaping of the eye. Either the eyeball itself becomes too long, causing light to focus at a point in front of the retina, instead of directly on its surface where we can focus to see clearly; or the cornea and/or lens of the eye is too curved. In either case, our ability to focus correctly is impaired and we have trouble seeing.
Slowing the Progression of Myopia in Kids
The most commonly used treatment for slowing the progression of myopia in children is atropine eye drops. Atropine is typically used by your eye doctor during an exam to dilate your pupil allowing them to more completely examine the health of your optic nerve and retina.
A lower dose of atropine will only slightly dilate the pupil, limiting the way your eye automatically refocuses, and has been proven to slow myopic progression by up to 77 percent.²
Eye doctors will also prescribe multifocal eyeglasses or contact lenses to both improve vision in children with some myopia, as well as slow its progression.
One recent study found that nearsighted children who wore multifocal lenses on a daily basis over a two-year period had a 50 percent reduction in the progression of their myopia, and another study over a three-year period showed that children wearing multifocal eyeglasses slowed the progression of nearsightedness by 51 percent.³
Other Treatments for Myopia
Getting out ahead of myopia is always the best approach. As children’s eyes are still developing, interventions like atropine eye drops and multifocal lenses are some of the best tools out there to slow myopic progression. Add to that some change in habits like less time in front of a computer or screens, more time outside where the sun’s UV rays can help retain the eyes healthy shape, and children can really push back progression quite a ways.
Children should see their eye doctor for a complete eye exam annually starting as early as 1-3 years old, allowing for early diagnosis of things like myopia, amblyopia or “lazy eye,” and astigmatisms.
For adolescents and adults who never got the chance to stave it off or slow its progression, refractive surgery, commonly called LASIK surgery (Laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis, in case you were wondering), can be used to surgically reshape your cornea, and often completely reverse the effects of myopia.