Having recently attended a presentation on Myopia (short-sight) and its global impact I was pleased to hear the evidence based methods I can implement as an Optometrist to help control both its onset and progression in my young patients.
What is myopia?
Occurring when the eye focuses light too quickly resulting in an image being in front of the retina, myopia usually occurs when the eyeball is too long, Near vision is clear but blurred at a distance. Most newborns have smaller eyeballs and are therefore born longsighted; reaching normal size over the first few years of life and they develop normal vision.
However, for some children, the eyeball continues to lengthen and they become myopic with the longer the eyeball the higher the myopia. While myopia often begins in childhood it can occur at any age in particular the teenage years, or early twenties.
The outlook for myopia
A third of the world are myopic with 3 % having high myopia (over -5.00D), however it is estimated that by 2050, more than half of the world’s population will be myopic with 10% being highly myopic. Myopia is occurring at a younger age now and we are living longer. High myopia carries an increased risk of eye disease and therefore blindness from conditions such as maculopathy, glaucoma and cataract.
Causes of myopia and myopic progression
· Blame the parents! – Genetics plays a huge role in a child becoming myopic.
· City living
· Put the books down and get outside!
· Seasonal variation; there is 50% less myopic progression in summer months
· Age- the younger the onset ( under 10 years) the greater the risk and the faster the progression
While there is no cure for myopia, spectacles, contact lenses and refractive surgery can improve vision. However, there is now good robust evidence to show what may help actually reduce the onset or at least slow myopic progression.
· Outdoor activity; aim for at least 10 hours per week, however, even small amounts of outdoor ( e.g. 40 mins per day) will have a positive effect
· Atropine therapy; low dose drops are instilled at night. This relaxes the focusing system of the eye and appears to be a viable option for slowing progression.
· Spectacles; full myopic correction is indicated; in fact under-correction of myopia may actually increase myopic progression. Specialised spectacle lenses which reduce the focusing burden of the eye with prolonged near work can be indicated in some cases.
· Contact lenses; both specialised soft and rigid lenses have been shown to reduce progression.
If your family has risk factors for myopia onset in your child or you have concerns about their progression- feel welcome to make contact with us to discuss further.