One of the leading epidemics in the world today is the explosion of “nearsightedness” or “myopia.” The number of Americans with a significant amount of myopia has doubled from 22% to 45% in the past twenty years.
Myopia was once thought of as just a visual nuisance, but we know now that significant amounts of nearsightedness can lead to permanent vision loss later in life as the eye gets longer in length. This elongation can cause the retina to stretch and die. This condition is called “myopic maculopathy.”
So, what can we do about it? We now know that significant increases in nearsightedness can be prevented in children by using special contact lens designs and by using very weak doses of a drug called “atropine.”
The use of contact lenses to prevent nearsighted progression include using soft (hydrogel) lenses that are bifocals. These lenses have the distance power in the center and have lower prescription in the lens periphery. Having these different powers helps the image focus over the entire retina and not just in center. Achieving a proper focus across the central and peripheral retina is the key to preventing nearsighted progression.
Another contact lens option is using rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses to reshape the cornea to create that “bifocal” effect and refocus the entire retinal image. Both systems work well, and Dr. Newman would be happy to discuss these methods and the costs with you for your child.
Sometimes, we use just the drug, Atropine, by itself. Sometimes, we use the drug in conjunction with the contact lens therapies. These therapies are continued until your child is fully grown. Unfortunately, we cannot turn back the clock if you are older and are significantly nearsighted.
It is unreasonable to expect no progression, but if we can reduce the progression so that your child remains below -4.00 D of nearsightedness, then we can greatly reduce the risk of developing a myopic maculopathy.
Dr. Newman can discuss ways of helping your children avoid the hassle of thick glasses and contact lenses as well as help reduce the risk of long-term degeneration of the retina. Call Dr. Newman today to ask about how to control myopia progression in your children.