Understanding Myopia -What You Should Know
Here we explain what Myopia is, its symptoms and why it is a health concern.
What is Myopia? What is the progression?
Myopia is nearsightedness (you can see near objects clearly but long distance vision is blurry). Myopia occurs when the eyeball itself grows longer than it should. Because the eye is too long, the cornea and lens inside the eye can no longer focus distant objects clearly on the back of the eye (the retina). At Grand River Eye Care, we tell our patients to watch for symptoms including squinting, headaches, trouble seeing street signs and tired eyes.
What age does it begin and when does it stop progressing?
Myopia usually starts in childhood. Children may complain that they can’t see what the teacher is writing on the board at school. Generally myopia will stabilize in early adulthood but in some cases it continues to progress with age. All schools in Waterloo have a kindergarten program that covers the cost of glasses in Junior Kindergarten. It’s called Eye See Eye Learn. This program tries to promote children seeing an eye doctor at an early age and at least by the time they enter school. The best time age to start eye exams is 6 months. We have special testing equipment and love to see children at Grand River Eye Care.
Why is the progression of Myopia a health concern?
Progressive Myopia can cause health issues in the eyes themselves. As the eyes elongate, the retina (the light sensitive tissue lining the back of our eyes) starts to thin. Myopic thinning of the retina can lead to vision loss, retinal tears, holes or retinal detachment. Retinal detachment can lead to blindness if emergency surgery is not performed.
At what age should you start controlling the progression of Myopia?
Myopic control can be started at any age. Once we see that Myopia is progressing and especially if there is a family history of high Myopia.
What are the methods of Myopia Control?
A number of different techniques have been studied to help control the progression of Myopia in childhood including fitting kids with bifocals, soft bifocal contact lenses and Ortho-K (a special rigid gas permeable or RGP lens is worn at night to reshape the cornea while you sleep).
What are the benefits of each one?
Each of the techniques are non-invasive and try to reduce the progression of Myopia. Wearing bifocal glasses has been shown to be the least effective method.
What method do you recommend and why?
I would recommend either the fitting of appropriate “myopic control” multifocal contact lenses or Ortho-k contact lenses. Multifocal contact lenses have different powers in different zones of the lens. The lenses have full corrective power in the center of the lens and less power in the periphery. Ortho-K lenses are rigid lenses which are worn at night while sleeping. It corrects myopia by gently reshaping the cornea (front surface of the eye) so glasses are not needed through the day. Studies have also shown that children who wear ortho-k lenses become less nearsighted than those who wear glasses or conventional contact lenses.
What age is recommended for Ortho-K contact lenses?
Ortho-K can be started at any age. Some studies have started children as young as 7.
My child is too young for Contact lenses, should they wait to begin Myopia control?
If your child is able to insert and remove a contact lens, we can begin contact lens wear. There really isn’t a set age when we can introduce contacts, but rather it depends on the ability of the child and the support of the parents. At Grand River Eye Care we have a contact lens training and trial program. We train children and parents on the proper insertion/removal techniques and how to care for contact lenses. We do many follow up appointments to ensure that the contacts are working, the sight is clear and that the eyes are healthy.
What lifestyle changes can be made to lower the progression of Myopia?
Number one, start seeing an eye doctor at an early age and make yearly eye exams a priority. Studies also show that spending more time outdoors (less time on computers or electronic devices) decreases the progression of Myopia. Getting exercise and having a healthy diet improves eye health.
I have heard that Myopia is being called an epidemic?
The prevalence of Myopia has increased over the last 30 years and is estimated to increase further. The discussion about strategies for myopic control is very timely.
The Nearsightedness Epidemic
I would suggest that patients book an appointment with one of our optometrists at Grand River Eye Care to discuss an individualized plan for controlling their nearsighted progression. Everyone’s eyes are different!
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