New Technology and Treatments to Combat the Growing Myopia Epidemic
When most people hear the word “myopia,” they usually associate it with nearsightedness – an eye condition that causes blurry distance vision and typically requires correction in the form of glasses, contact lenses, or laser eye surgery. But most people don’t recognize that myopia is also a chronic, progressively deteriorating condition that is characterized by excessive elongation of the eye which increases a person’s risk for sight-threatening and lifestyle inhibiting complications over time.
Globally, myopia has been on the rise over the last 50 years. In the 1970s, about 25% of the world’s population had myopia. But that number has been increasing ever since, and is expected to reach more than 50% of people by 2050. In the United States, myopia has more than doubled over the last 20 years and now affects more than 40% of the population; yet, it is progressing even faster in kids, and is expected to reach nearly 60% of school-aged children in the next 30 years. Even more alarming is the fact that in some Asian countries myopia prevalence is now approaching 75% in adolescents, and the rates are still rising.
There are several factors that appear to be contributing to this increase in myopia and the lengthening of the eye over time. Genetics, of course, plays a significant role. Studies show that if one parent has myopia, a child has a 1 in 3 chance of being nearsighted. If both parents have myopia, their children have a 1 in 2 chance of developing it. Ethnicity is also important, with Asian and Indian populations showing more prevalence than American and European populations. A person’s lifestyle also contributes to their likelihood of developing myopia over time. More time spent indoors, or not enough time outdoors, is a risk factor. Prolonged reading or viewing of electronic devices such as computers, phones, tablets, and video games – especially in poor lighting conditions – also makes myopia more likely. This is especially true in young children because their eyes lengthen at a more rapid rate than adolescents who are nearing adulthood.
Myopia affects more than just sight. It inhibits learning in school, participation in sports, driving, and many other activities. It also drastically increases the likelihood of developing a serious eye health problem later in life. Some of these conditions, such as retinal detachments, glaucoma, myopic maculopathy, and cataracts, can be quite debilitating and lead to other health problems if left untreated.
As eye care professionals, physicians, and parents become more aware of the growing myopia epidemic, they are also becoming increasingly more proactive in finding ways and recommending treatments to curb its spread. In recent years, myopia management in eye care has grown substantially, and there are now several different options for patients who are interested in controlling or slowing the progression of myopia in their eyes. Traditionally, these have included:
- Bifocal or Multifocal Eyeglasses – this option has been the most popular over the years for very young children with myopia because it is readily available and one of the easiest to manage. The bifocal helps prevent the eyes from overfocusing and concentrates light at the proper points on the back of the eye to minimize blur.
- Atropine Eye Drops – this method of myopia control works by dilating the pupil and relaxing the focusing muscles of the eye in an effort to prevent the eye from elongating over time.
- Gas Permeable Hard Contact Lenses – also known as orthokeratology, this method requires the patient to sleep in a hard contact lens overnight which reshapes the cornea and allows them to see better (without the contact) during the day.
A new method of myopia management has also recently emerged in soft multifocal contact lenses. The MiSight 1-day lens from CooperVision is the first and only contact lens to be approved by the FDA for myopia control and is indicated for slowing the progression of myopia in children between the ages of 8-12. It works by focusing light directly on the center of the retina (to correct distance vision blur) and the rest of the light in front of the retina (to slow the elongation of the eye). When used as directed, MiSight has been shown to reduce both myopia progression and eye lengthening by more than 50%, and 9 out of 10 wearers preferred the comfort and vision of the contact lens over their eyeglasses.
At Derby City Eye Care, we now offer the MiSight 1-day contact lens as part of our myopia management program. If your child has been diagnosed with myopia, or their myopia is getting worse every year, please call us at 502-200-1920 to schedule an appointment with our myopia management specialists.