My fourth grader just had his first real eye exam and needs glasses to see the board better. I am worried that this may keep going and he becomes one of those kids with bad eye sight and thick glasses. What can I do?
Is there a way to slow nearsightedness progression?
If you had asked 5 years ago, I would have had a very different answer. Now, I can give you very good news! We now have three treatments to slow or stop nearsightedness progression.
First, please know that nearsightedness ( medical term: myopia ) is rapidly progressing everywhere. Essentially, studies indicate that the excessive near vision activities kids do these days are causing more distance blurry vision. Getting kid off the tablets and laptops and phones to go outside and do some physical activity is the goal…..but very hard to achieve.
There are 3 main methods to treat myopia:
Clinically, we now use three methods to slow the progression of myopia: daily eyedrops, near focusing contacts, and corneal reshaping with contacts. Generally, one treatment is selected, but a combination of two may be possible.
Eyedrops to reduce excessive near vision focusing are very well tolerated. A drop each morning allows your child to see clearly at distance, but reduces the “nearpoint stress” caused by excessive close work. Because this problem is addressed after your child has some degree of myopia, we may also prescribe a newer eyewear lens to enhance nearpoint comfort and clarity.
Soft contact lenses have been available as “multifocals” for several years now. While the initial designs were for us “over 40 “people, now the lenses also work for kids. The new designs are customized to provide clear near vision, along with sharp distance, without the child needing to use our internal eye-focusing muscles so much during the day. Maybe best of all, these pediatric multifocals are available in single day modality…..so no lens cleaning and disinfection is required. Begin the day with a fresh perfect pair each morning, and discard at bedtime!
Lastly, a technique called “orthokeratology” is used to gently reshape the surface of the eye to create less myopia. This is similar to the process of lasik, a refractive surgery method for adults, but is safe and approved for patients under 18. Essentially, with precise measurements and topography mapping of the eye surface, we prescribe flexible ( not soft ) contacts to be worn overnight. That’s right…overnight….and only overnight. While you sleep, the ortho-k lenses gently reshape the cornea to create less nearsightedness. In many ways, this is an eyesight version of orthodontics. Successful ortho-k gives the child clear vision all day long, with just overnight lens wear. We also see some adults using this to achieve clear vision all day without wearing contacts or glasses.
Talk with your eye doctor about myopia management to see what option/s may be available for your child. There are limits to how much nearsightedness can be corrected, and your child’s willingness to participate may steer us to the best treatment approach. Most parents are still unaware of these choices, and pleasantly surprised how well they work. Prevention is now an option!