If your child has myopia (nearsightedness), you’re probably wondering if there is a cure - or at least something that can be done to slow its progression so your child doesn’t need stronger glasses year after year.
For years, eye care practitioners and researchers have been wondering the same thing. And there’s good news: A number of recent studies suggest it may indeed be possible to at least control myopia by slowing its progression during childhood and among teenagers.
Although an outright cure for nearsightedness has not been discovered, your eye doctor can now offer a number of treatments that may be able to slow the progression of myopia.
These treatments can induce changes in the structure and focusing of the eye to reduce stress and fatigue associated with the development and progression of nearsightedness.
Why should you be interested in myopia control? Because slowing the progression of myopia may keep your child from developing high levels of nearsightedness that require thick, corrective eyeglasses and have been associated with serious eye problems later in life, such as early cataracts or even a detached retina.
Currently, three types of treatment are showing promise for controlling myopia:
Multifocal contact lenses
Atropine eye drops
Here’s a summary of each of these treatments:
Orthokeratology is the use of specially designed gas permeable contact lenses that are worn during sleep at night and removed in the morning to temporarily correct nearsightedness and other vision problems so glasses and contact lenses aren’t needed during the day.
But some eye doctors use “ortho-k” lenses to also control myopia progression in children. Evidence suggests nearsighted kids who undergo several years of orthokeratology may end up with less myopia as adults, compared with children who wear eyeglasses or regular contact lenses during the peak years for myopia progression.
Many eye care practitioners refer to these lenses as “corneal reshaping lenses” or “corneal refractive therapy (CRT)” lenses rather than ortho-k lenses, though the lens designs may be similar.
Multifocal contacts are special lenses that have different powers in different zones of the lens to correct presbyopia as well as nearsightedness or farsightedness (with or without astigmatism).
But researchers and eye doctors are finding that conventional or modified multifocal soft contact lenses also are effective tools for myopia control. These contact lenses are worn during the day like regular contacts and are removed and cleaned before bedtime.
Atropine eye drops have been used for myopia control for many years, with effective short-term results. But use of these eye drops also has some drawbacks.
Topical atropine is a medicine used to dilate the pupil and temporarily paralyze accommodation and completely relax the eye’s focusing mechanism.
Atropine 1% typically is not used for routine dilated eye exams because its actions are long-lasting and can take a week or longer to wear off. (The dilating drops your eye doctor uses during your eye exam typically wear off within a couple hours.) A common use for atropine 1% is to reduce eye pain associated with certain types of eye inflammation (uveitis).
The atropine used to slow down myopia progression is typically diluted 100x to 0.01% and therefore has much fewer side effects compared to the 1%. At the moment, atropine 0.01% is only available through a compounding pharmacy and is usually not covered by insurance.
David Wasserlauf OD runs a full-scope optometric practice in nearby Bayside. Come by and meet him and optician Eli Khaimov for excellent care and service. He accepts most insurances, offers same day appointments, has minimal wait times, and there is free parking.