Myopia management is the use of specially designed contact lenses or spectacle lenses used to slow down the progression of myopia (short-sightedness).
What is myopia, and who does it affect?
Myopia means short-sightedness. If you or your child is myopic, this is usually because their eye is longer than usual (from front to back) which causes light to focus in front of the retina (back of the eye) rather than directly on it. Myopia is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors and is becoming increasingly prevalent. A child is more likely to become myopic if their parents are also myopic, but environmental factors are believed to be the cause of the recent prevalence.
Affecting around a third of the UK population, myopia usually starts to develop in childhood from the ages of 6-13 and continues to worsen until the eye has stopped growing (around the age of 20). Becoming myopic before nine years old may increase the risk of developing a high level of myopia. A high level of myopia puts a person at greater risk of sight-threatening eye disease in later life. Conditions such as a retinal tear, retinal detachments, glaucoma and myopic retinal degeneration are more common.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Myopia?
When you develop myopia, you’ll be able to see close-up objects clearly whilst those in the distance will be blurry. The severity of short-sightedness can vary with mild cases requiring no treatment and more acute cases having a severe impact on vision.
The signs that a child could have short-sightedness is the frequent rubbing of their eyes, complaints of tired eyes or headaches, sitting too close to the TV or finding it difficult to read the whiteboard in school.
What Causes Myopia?
The exact causes of myopia are not fully understood; however, as mentioned, both genetics and environmental factors contribute to the development and severity of myopia.
Myopia is something that tends to run in families, so if one or both parents have developed short-sightedness, their children are more likely to develop it too.
Researchers have found over 40 genes linked to myopia that are responsible for the eye’s development, structure and how the signals are passed from the eyes to the brain.
Not Spending Enough Time Outdoors - Research shows that natural outdoor light, even when overcast, can protect the eye from lengthening and becoming myopic. If children spend plenty of time outdoors, researchers have found that the chances of developing myopia decrease significantly as well as slowing the development of any existing signs of short-sightedness.
Excessive use of Screens- Excessive screen time like watching TV or using tablets doesn’t appear to affect how likely it is that your child will develop myopia or that their myopia will worsen. However, spending time on these activities may reduce the time your child spends outdoors, which we know can help prevent myopia.
How can you treat or slow-down myopia?
Myopia is easily corrected with glasses, contact lenses or both. However, some treatments can slow down the progression of myopia during childhood; this is called myopia management.
Our specialist optometrists have several methods to slow-down myopia, including Ortho-K overnight contact lenses and MiSight®️ 1-day soft contact lenses that can reduce the progression of myopia by 40% to 60%.
If myopia management is successful, this could mean that:
- Your child could be glasses-free
- They may not depend on their glasses as much as they would otherwise have had to
- The prescription for their glasses will be lower, so their spectacle lenses will be thinner, lighter and more comfortable.
- Being less myopic may mean reduce the risk of developing conditions such as retinal detachment and myopic retinal degeneration.
Contact Lenses for Myopia Management
There are two types of contact lenses used to manage myopia:
- Orthokeratology (Ortho-K) or corneal-reshaping lenses
The treatment consists of specially designed rigid gas permeable contact lenses which are worn at night only. These lenses help to alter the shape (flatten) of the cornea while your child sleeps, to reduce and correct the progression of myopia.
- Soft daily disposable contact lenses
These lenses are designed to change the focus of light in their peripheral vision. Your child would wear these in the same way they would wear standard contact lenses. However, their vision may be slightly less clear with these as opposed to traditional contact lenses.