What is Myopia (Nearsightesness) Control?
Nearsightedness is a vision condition that causes objects that are far away to be blurred and difficult to see. This condition, also called myopia, is becoming increasingly common at an alarming rate. More and more kids are developing nearsightedness, and the amount of myopia they are developing is increasing. Blurred vision caused by myopia can usually be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. However, beyond being a visual annoyance, this condition carries some significant risks to ocular health. It can increase the risk of glaucoma, early development of cataracts, or even sight threatening conditions like retinal detachments. For this reasons, researchers and eye care professionals have developed ways to slow down the progression of nearsightedness. These treatment options alter the way light enters the eye and result in less amounts of myopia, which can mean healthier and better-seeing eyes in the future!
Orthokeratology or Ortho-k
A popular method of myopia control is known as orthokeratology, or ortho-k. Ortho-k is primarily used as a form of visual correction. It utilizes gas permeable contact lenses that are worn overnight and act as a “retainer” for the eyes. The lenses gently and painless reshape the front surface of the eye and correct for any amounts of nearsightedness. The lenses are removed upon awakening and vision is clear, even without wearing glasses or contact lenses during the day. Beyond effortlessly correcting vision overnight, studies have shown that long-term use of orthokeratology can significantly decrease, and in some cases completely halt, the progression of myopia in children. Kids who are at high risk for developing myopia can consider this easy form of myopia control to reduce reliance on glasses and promote better ocular health. It is a great option for those with low to moderate amounts of myopia and mild amounts of astigmatism.
Soft Contact Lenses for Myopia Control
Recent studies have evaluated using soft multifocal contact lenses in children with the goal of reducing the amount of myopia development. Traditionally, multifocal lenses are designed to correct distance and near vision in presbyopia. However, for myopia control these soft lenses are worn daily and are specially chosen to change the way light enters the eye. If worn consistently, soft multifocal contact lenses can help reduce the development of myopia in children with low to moderate amounts of nearsightedness. Though the lenses can take some time to get used to at first, they are overall a comfortable and easy method of myopia control.
Progressive or Bifocal Glasses
Bifocal and progressive lenses for spectacles have also been used for myopia control. The science behind this method is similar to that of multifocal soft contact lenses, and they can help relax the focusing system of the eye in attempts to reduce the progression of myopia. However, studies have demonstrated that this method is generally not as effective in reducing nearsightedness as the previously mentioned alternatives.
Atropine Eye Drops
An effective, though rarely used, method of myopia control is the use of low-dose atropine eye drops. This medication relaxes the focusing system of the eye for long periods of time and can be very effective in reducing or slowing the development of myopia. Occasionally there are negative side effects associated with the eye drops, like stinging, burning, or temporarily blurred vision, so this method is not as commonly used as some of the other options for myopia control.
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