Myopia: what is it?
Myopia or short-sightedness, is the eye condition where near objects are clear, but objects farther away are blurred. It is caused by the eye ball being slightly too long. Myopia usually begins in childhood and is more common in children who have a myopic parent.
Myopia: an epidemic?
The percentage of people who develop myopia is increasing sharply, to the extent where it is now considered an epidemic. Myopia is getting worse around the world: in some parts of Asia, eighty percent of the girls in high school are myopic. In the United States, over forty percent of people aged 12-54 are myopic and here in UK, research has shown that over fifty percent of 1st year undergraduates are myopic.
Myopia: traditional thinking
Although there are significant negative issues associated with myopia (costs of lifetime treatment, inconvenience and increased risk of eye problems such as cataract, glaucoma, retinal detachments and myopia maculopathy eye disease and blindness), they are not life threatening and have been generally managed with glasses for over a century. However, current research indicates we may well be making the problem worse with glasses and standard contact lenses, plus myopia levels are accelerating for other reasons as well. And, as we expect our children will live longer than us, we need to do all we can to preserve their vision.
Myopia: is there a cure?
If your child has myopia you might be wondering if there is a cure or if something can be done to slow its development. Research has, for some time, suggested that it may be possible to slow the rate of progression of myopia. There are a few treatments which aim to do this with successful results.
However, there is now a ground-breaking new, soft contact lens, MiSight® 1 day launched in March 2017, which has been proven to substantially slow the progression of myopia in children.
We are proud to have been selected to be among the first optometrists in the UK (and the only optometrists in the South West) to offer this revolutionary contact lens. Find out more about MiSight® 1 day.
Here are some myopia facts to get you thinking
- Myopic parents are more likely to have myopia children than non-myopic parents. i.e. genetics plays a part.
- People in urban environments have more myopia than rural societies.
- The amount of reading or near work a person does is not predictive of whether they will become myopic.
- Studies of Native Eskimo populations show low levels of myopia pre-education and that they developed higher rates of myopia when introduced to the population.
- The eye determines where correct focus is located while it is growing, by the clarity of peripheral (side) vision, not central vision.
- People who spend more time outdoors, even if they have myopic parents and even if they read a lot, are less likely to become myopic.
- As you can see, it's not straightforward.
Why act now?
- We cannot cure myopia
- Myopia occurs because the eyeball has grown too long: this cannot be reversed
- We can aim to stop or slow it from getting worse
- The younger you start the Myopia Control Programme the better the chance of success
- The average increase in myopia for those who are progressing is about 0.37DS per year. That means a child with low myopia in year 7 most likely will not be able to read the top letters on the eye chart without glasses by year 10.
- The best time for effective treatment is when myopia is low as the change is usually most rapid in the first year or two.
- There are advantages to myopia control at any stage but there is no advantage in waiting.
- The quality of life difference between people with low myopia compared with those with high myopia is significant. A person with low myopia, such as -1.00DS or better, is only slightly inconvenienced in many situations. They are part-time glasses wearers, perhaps using them only for seeing the white board at school or driving. Hugely different to a person with high myopia who needs glasses to see even the alarm clock first thing in the morning.
The Myopia Control Programme
1. Get outdoors
Studies suggest that children should aim to be outdoors for up to 80 minutes a day. This is not a standardised time, as there is not enough research to be precise. But children who spend at least that time outside do not show as much myopia progression.
Research also shows indoor sports such as basketball does not give the same protection. Studies indicate that the activity might best be focused on distant objects, such as riding a bike, as opposed to near activities like playing cards.
2. Myopia Control Programme
Join the programme and at your initial appointment we will take a detailed family history, with the aid of a questionnaire. Then, together we’ll discuss the options available and fit you with lenses. If you want time to think about your options and do some research, we can use this appointment to point you in the right direction. A patient will normally require a minimum of three appointments in the first year.