Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a common vision condition affecting children who can see well up close, while distant objects are blurry. Nearsighted children tend to squint to see distant objects such as the board at school. They also tend to sit closer to the television to see it more clearly.
Sometimes childhood myopia can worsen year after year. This change can be quite concerning for both children and their parents, prompting the question: "Will it ever stop? Or, someday will this get so bad that glasses won't help?"
Below are three possible ways to slow down the progression of myopia in children.
Rigid Gas Permeable Contact Lenses
Wearing rigid gas permeable contact lenses, also referred to as RGP lenses, may slow the progression of nearsightedness in children. It has been proposed that the massaging action of the RGP lens on the eye during blinking may keep the eye from lengthening, thereby reducing the tendency for advancing nearsightedness.
In 2001 to 2004, the National Eye Institute conducted a controlled study to determine whether wearing RGP lenses is effective in slowing the progression of myopia in children. The 116 participants in the study were 8 to 11 years old when the research began.
At the end of the three year study, the children who were fitted with RGP lenses had only 0.63 diopters less nearsightedness than the children in the control group who were fitted with soft contact lenses.
The study also found that wearing RGP lenses does not slow the growth of the eye, which causes most of the myopia in children. The reduced progression of myopia among those children wearing RGP lenses was due only to the effect the lenses had on the front surface of the eye, the cornea. Children who were fitted with RGP lenses had less increase in corneal curvature than those who were fitted with soft contact lenses. The NEI researchers believe these RGP lens induced changes in corneal curvature are not likely to be permanent, and therefore the effect of RGP lenses on controlling myopia progression may not be permanent.
Orthokeratology, or "ortho-k," is the use of specially designed rigid gas permeable contact lenses to flatten the shape of the cornea, and therefore reducing or correcting mild to moderate amounts of nearsightedness. The lenses are worn during sleep and removed in the morning. Though temporary eyeglasses may be required during the early stages of ortho-k, many people with low to moderate amounts of myopia can see well without glasses or contact lenses during the day after wearing the corneal reshaping lenses at night.
Recent research suggests ortho-k may also reduce the lengthening of the eye. Thus demonstrating that wearing ortho-k lenses during childhood may actually cause a permanent reduction in myopia, even if the lenses are discontinued in adulthood.
Some evidence suggests wearing eyeglasses with bifocal or progressive multifocal lenses may slow the progression of nearsightedness in some children. The technique appears to demonstrate that the added magnifying power in these lenses reduces focusing fatigue during reading and other close work which is a scenario that may contribute to increasing myopia.
A five year study published in the February 2007 issue of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science produced an interesting result involving nearsighted children whose mother and father were also nearsighted. These children who were fitted with eyeglasses with progressive multifocal lenses, during the course of the study, had less progression of their myopia than similar children who were fitted with eyeglasses with single vision lenses.
If you are concerned about your child becoming more nearsighted year after year, please call us at 512-255-7070 to schedule a comprehensive eye exam and consultation. We can evaluate the progression of their nearsightedness and discuss the best treatment options with you.