Optometrist ANDY MEAU of iSight Optometric Eye Care Centre discusses short sightedness and how it affects young people in particular – plus, how daily disposable contact lenses can help kids coping with myopia.
What exactly is myopia?
Myopia, also known as “near sightedness” or “short sightedness”, is a common vision condition that causes blurry far distance vision. A person with myopia can see up close clearly, such as reading a book or looking at the phone. However, words and objects at a far distance can be blurry, such as when driving, watching TV or looking at the board in class.
What causes short sightedness?
Myopia occurs when the eyeball is too long (elongated) or the cornea (the clear front surface of the eye) is too curved, affecting how light is focused inside the eye. Instead of focusing on the retina at the back of the eye, light focuses in front of the retina in an elongated eyeball, which causes distant objects to look blurry. Myopia is most commonly corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses, and in adults, refractive surgeries.
What about myopia specifically in children – does that have a different cause?
During the growth years, children’s vision system is constantly evolving. This includes the ability for both eyes to work as a team (binocular functions) and the ability to sustain and change focus accurately. If myopia isn’t treated, the blurry vision can have an impact on the normal development of these vision systems. And this may impact learning.
Childhood onset myopia is most commonly caused by an eyeball that grows, or elongates, too quickly. Myopia typically progresses faster in younger children as their eyes grow at a faster rate. Recent studies have shown that the rate of myopia progression is directly related to the rate of eyeball elongation (axial length).
This means that myopia will occur if the rate of eyeball elongation is quicker than age-appropriate.
What are some recent advances in myopia treatment?
One of the most promising solutions for myopia control is the MiSight contact lens, a soft, daily disposable contact lens specifically designed to correct nearsightedness and slow the growth of the eye in children. Unlike traditional soft contact lenses for adults, which have a single prescription to correct vision, MiSight contact lenses are dual-purpose. They provide clear vision and also help control the progression of myopia. Two correction zones allow children to enjoy clear, spectacle-free vision; and two treatment zones work by generating an optical signal to prevent the eye from growing longer, thus slowing down the progression of myopia.
MiSight contact lenses have been proven to be effective and safe for myopia control in children, based on the world’s longest-running soft contact lens study among children. It’s also the only contact lens approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for slowing the progression of myopia in children. Over a period of three years, children who wore MiSight contact lenses showed a reduced progression of myopia by close to 60 percent and a slowing of the growth of the eye by about 50 percent compared to children who wore conventional contact lenses. Also, the contact lens didn’t cause any serious adverse events or complications, and children were generally happy with the comfort level and ease of use.
At our clinic, we have fitted MiSight contact lenses in hundreds of children since 2010, and we’ve found a similar myopia control efficacy and satisfaction from both the parents and children.
Are contact lenses difficult for children to use?
Parents often wonder if their children are capable of handling contact lenses at a young age. There is no specific minimum age as to when a child is suitable for contact lenses; it depends on whether the parents or optometrist thinks they are mature enough to handle them on their own. While we have fitted children as young as five years old in our clinic, the average age of fitting is around eight.
The most important aspect for a successful fitting is that the children are willing participants. It’s important that they receive one-on-one training in how to insert or remove the lenses on their own. Most children under 10 can safely and properly handle insertion and removal on their own after two 45-minute lessons – older children or teenagers typically require only one session.
When the children understand the benefits contact lenses provide, they’re also more motivated to learn and get started on using them.
What are some benefits of children using contact lenses?
Research has shown that contact lenses can help to improve self-esteem and confidence in children, especially those who have been teased or experienced any negative social stigma associated with wearing eyeglasses from their peers. Children also find contact lenses to be more comfortable and convenient for a variety of sports or activities. They allow a full range of clear vision without the worry of eyeglasses falling off, or sliding down the nose. Contact lenses are often more safe than eyeglasses for children who participate in contact sports.
What is the risk of eye infection?
For children who wear contact lenses, especially daily disposables like MiSight, the risk of eye infection is as low as adults. In fact, some research has shown that younger children often have a lower incidence of eye infection than teenagers and young adults. This is because parents are often involved in supervising the handling and care of the contact lenses in younger children. Daily disposable contact lenses have proven to be the safest contact lens option for both adults and children, with a risk of eye infection in around one case per 5,000 wearers, per year.
What else should readers know about kids and myopia?
Myopia is starting in children at an ever younger age in recent years. We know for a fact that the younger the child is with myopia, the greater their risk of developing higher myopia later in life. And research has proven that higher myopia means a more elongated eyeball, which significantly increases the risk of serious sight threatening eye diseases.
So it’s recommended that children are brought to the optometrists for routine eye examinations starting at around four years of age for baseline measurement on their vision, visual functions and development, and more importantly the size of the eyeball so as to determine the future risk of developing myopia. Also, being outdoors at least one hour per day has been shown to be beneficial in delaying the onset of myopia. And for myopic children, with early intervention, we can slow down the progression of myopia with the use of contact lenses, which is shown to be safe and effective.
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Interested in reading about kids’ health beyond the topic of short sightedness? Find out more in our Kids Section.