by Optometrist Eleanor Leech
My child has developed myopia. I’m wondering if there are any treatments available for children? I don’t mean surgery but any treatments that can stop or limit the effects of short-sightedness?
As an Optometrist, this is the most common question asked by parents with myopic children. I’m delighted to say that the answer is ‘Yes, treatment is available!’
Myopia, or short-sightedness as it is more commonly called, usually starts in childhood. Myopia occurs when the eye grows too long (from the front to the back of the eye). This increased growth causes light to come into focus just short of the retina. The retina is the point at the back of the eye where light needs to be focused for vision to be clear. If this focal point is slightly off target, vision is blurry. Myopia therefore results in an inability to see things clearly unless the object is close to the eye. It is the most common refractive error in children and young adults.
Other contributing factors include a cornea that is too curved for the length of the eyeball or a lens inside the eye that is too thick.
Distant objects and your driving vision will be blurry if you have myopia, but you still will be able to see nearby objects clearly. This is why the condition is also called “short-sightedness.
There are around 1.5 billion people worldwide who are short-sighted. On average, myopia begins at 12 years of age but occasionally affects younger children. The most common symptoms of myopia are squinting, eye strain, headaches and fatigue. As an optometrist I am often asked what parents can do to prevent myopia worsening.
Surgery for myopia in children is not often an option. Short-sightedness usually progresses through the teenage years so surgical procedures wouldn’t be appropriate as any improvement would be short lived. This is the reason reputable ophthalmologists will not carry out vision correction surgery until around age 20 when prescriptions usually level off. Vision correction treatments available after this time include laser eye surgery, implantable contact lenses and lens replacement surgery.
Overstretched eyeball growth increases an individual’s risk of retinal detachments, glaucoma and some forms of macular degeneration. Optometrists recommend that even if you have undergone vision correction surgery and now have perfect vision, you should still have regular check ups because whilst surgery corrects vision, it doesn’t reduce the length of the eyeball. An eye examination should be carried out at least every two years to keep monitoring the health of the eyes even if you no longer need glasses.
However, if caught early, there are treatments available which may limit the growth of the eyeball, protecting the eye from increased myopia and also from all of the other risks associated with long eyeball growth.
Myopia control contact lenses are the most effective treatments available to control the eyeballs growth. There are two types of these special lenses that work by reducing the growth of the eyeballs. Current research has shown that myopia control contact lenses can reduce short-sightedness by as much as 50 per cent.
Research is still in its infancy as the most advanced studies are still following the earliest wearers of myopia control contact lenses. However, the studies are demonstrating that as these individuals get older, results are incredibly promising. By reducing the impact of myopia by 50%, the contact lens wearers are still likely to be short-sighted but are able to effectively reduce the severity of short-sightedness that they are likely to end up with.
The advantages of a reduction in severity are:
- Protection against the risks of overstretched eyeballs, such as retinal detachments, glaucoma and some forms of macular degeneration.
- Better unaided vision which may reduce the need to wear glasses in daily life
- It can open up treatment options for surgical optical correction that may not be available if left untreated.
Whilst Laser Vision Scotland doesn’t provide treatment for children with Myopia, we work with a selection of highly experienced optometrists who are happy to advice on the use of myopia control contact lenses.
If you have a child with myopia for whom you would like to investigate myopia control contact lenses, Laser Vision Scotland can provide recommendations of reputable, local optometrists who can help.