Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a condition that impacts billions of people world-wide. Thanks to increasing use of digital devices, that number is growing and is projected to impact almost half of the global population by 2050. One study recently showed that home confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to be associated with a significant increase in myopia in young children (1.4-3 times in 2020 compared with the previous 5 years). Why does this matter? Firstly, dependence on glasses or contact lenses is a hassle that is best avoided if possible. Secondly, the development of high myopia (defined as -6.00 diopters or more) places an individual at higher risk of conditions such as retinal detachment, macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma.
Fortunately today we have options available to help control the progression of myopia which were not available in the past. One option is a low dose of a medicated drop called atropine. Atropine relaxes the focusing mechanism of the eye, which is thought to be the means by which progression slows. Multifocal contact lenses are another good option, which can slow the myopic progression without the need for drops. Older children appreciate the option of contact lenses, particularly if they are active in sports. For the contact lens-averse patient, there are certain brands of spectacle lenses shown to reduce the progression of myopia, and in some cases bifocals or anti-fatigue lenses can be used as well. Lastly, some optometrists will fit their patients with OrthoK lenses - contact lenses that are inserted at night and removed during the day. These give patients the benefit of not requiring glasses or contacts during the day while also controlling their myopia.
As you can see, there are many options available to slow the progression of myopia. Discuss with your Doctor of Optometry which option is the best for your child. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, know that one easy way to help slow the onset or progression of myopia is outdoor play. So, get your kids outside to enjoy our beautiful (and hopefully not smokey) Okanagan summer - and feel good about the fact that you’re helping their eyes while doing so!