So your child is becoming nearsighted.. what are your options?

Myopia, also called near-sightedness, develops during childhood and continues to worsen until adulthood.  There is no way to cure myopia, but there are several methods of limiting the amount of myopia a child will ultimately develop.  Why does this matter you may ask?  Myopia is caused by the eyeball growing longer.  When the eyeball grows longer, it increases the risk of several eye diseases including retinal detachment, glaucoma, and cataracts.

The exact mechanism that triggers myopia to progressively worsen is still unknown, but there are several known methods to slow down myopia in children.  Much of the literature indicates that excessive near tasks such as reading for hours on end or staring at a tablet may play a role in worsening myopia.  There is also a genetic component, so if one or more parents are nearsighted, children are at a higher risk of become nearsighted as well.

One of the easiest ways to prevent nearsightedness is encouraging outdoor activities instead of indoor activities.  Research has yet to pinpoint a reason, but the natural light from the sun may have an effect on slowing myopia.

Treatment Options

As far as treatments, orthokeratology (Ortho-K) is by far the most effective method of treatment to slow the eyes from getting worse and becoming more nearsighted.  In ortho-k, contact lenses are used only while sleeping and removed in the morning.  The lenses reshape the front of the eye, similar to LASIK, to allow for clear vision during the day.  The younger a child starts ortho-k treatment, the better their results will be.

The earlier treatment is started, the less nearsighted they will be as an adult.

If orthokeratology is not an ideal option, soft multifocal contact lenses are the next best treatment.  These lenses are also shown to slow down the formation of nearsightedness, and are wore throughout the day and removed at night.  They are available in monthly reusables or daily disposables, which are preferred especially for children.

Bifocal glasses are the least effective at myopia control, but are still better than single vision glasses and contact lenses.

 

If a child is expected to have high myopia, it is always best to intervene with treatment early in the form of overnight contact lenses, multifocal contact lenses, and bifocal glasses.  The earlier treatment is started in a child’s life, the less nearsighted they will be as an adult.

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Author: Dr. Brett Arnold

Dr. Brett Arnold specializes in Custom Contact Lens fitting at Suburban Eye Care in Livonia, Michigan. He graduated from Ferris State University in 2010 with a Bachelor's Degree in Vision Science and Michigan College of Optometry in 2014 with a Doctorate of Optometry. http://suburbaneyecare.com

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