By Dr. Sara Kloft ~
Myopia, otherwise known as nearsightedness, is becoming more prevalent in our society. The number of Americans that have myopia has nearly doubled in the last 50 years, and there is no sign of it slowing down. The blurry vision caused by myopia can be corrected with glasses, but glasses do not correct the underlying problem and the vision often continues to worsen. Lifestyle challenges of not being able to see well without glasses or contacts can be frustrating. Once a patient becomes highly myopic, defined as a prescription of -6.00 D or more, that patient is also at a higher risk for a decrease in vision that can’t be corrected or reversed.
As myopia progresses, the eye gets longer, causing the tissue in the back of the eye to get thinner. This tissue thinning puts the patient at a higher risk for vision-threatening retinal detachments, glaucoma and myopic maculopathy (abnormal blood vessel growth beneath the part of your eye responsible for 20/20 vision). High myopia has also been linked to early-onset cataracts.
Children are usually diagnosed with myopia between the ages of five and seven. Myopia typically gets progressively worse until the child is done growing, often in their late teens. Some children’s vision worsens more quickly than average, which leads to a highly myopic diagnosis in their teens.
While there’s a clear genetic link for myopia, and it runs in families, the recent surge isn’t completely understood. Several studies suggest that kids who are exposed to less outdoor daylight in early childhood are more likely to become myopic. So more time playing outside before myopia sets in is recommended, because once begun, there is no way to reverse myopia.
Today, there are some treatment options to slow its progression, however. One is a very low-dose eye drop called Atropine. The drops are instilled once a night before bed. Atropine is also used for dilation and treating amblyopia, but the strength of the drop for myopia control is much lower and very few side-effects have been noted. The dosage’s side effects for myopia management include a slightly dilated pupil and a small reduction in accommodation. Both of these are reversible once treatment is completed. Dr. Frederick, a pediatric ophthalmologist, adds, “I’m encouraged by the studies and am pleased to have Dr. Kloft providing this service at Eye Surgeons. Being able to manage the severity of myopia will be a huge advantage for our kids’ vision and eye health.”
The other option to slow the progression of myopia is with special contact lenses. There are multifocal soft lenses that have been shown to slow myopia progression. This treatment has been used for years, but got FDA approval in November of 2019. The downside to this option is that children are often too young to care for their lenses, and so the responsibility falls on the parent. Like any contact lens, there is a greater risk of infection since a medical device is on the eye. The contact lens is often a better option for older children.
Myopia management is a relatively new treatment in medicine, but multiple studies have backed it. If your child’s eye doctor thinks he or she would be a good candidate for myopia management, schedule a consultation and see which treatment plan would be most beneficial.
BIO: Dr. Sara Kloft is an optometrist with Eye Surgeons Associates, working in Rock Island and Bettendorf. Her clinical interests include pediatrics and glaucoma. For more information, visit www.esaeyecare.com.
The material contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider.