Recent data confirm epidemic rates of myopia (nearsightedness) in children. Myopia has been steadily rising so that one-third of the global population is estimated to be affected now, and half the world’s population (nearly 5 billion people) will be near-sighted (myopic) by 2050, according to a study published in the journal Ophthalmology and cited in Science Daily.
The study points out that the fast growth of myopia in children is mainly due to “lifestyle changes as a result of decreased time outdoors and increased near work activities.”
It’s also true that nearsightedness gets progressively worse year after year.
According to Dr. Kenneth Van Amerongen, optometrist and eye disease specialist in Loveland, Colorado, optical solutions to reduce the risk of myopia and slow its progression are available. Dr. Van, as he is called, says that myopia progression can be effectively slowed by the daytime use of multifocal soft contact lenses.
While contact lenses are generally safe and improve quality of life in older children, young children will benefit from learning to use and wear contacts safely and comfortably. “The use of soft multifocal contact lenses as a platform for myopia control in our children is exciting and effective when combined properly with a holistic myopia control strategy,” he said. “An effective myopia control strategy combines optical and lifestyle changes.”
Dr. Van Amerongen prescribes the following process for myopia management in children. First, multifocal soft contact lenses aimed at the correction of peripheral hyperopic defocus. In some cases, low-dose atropine eye drops that make the pupil of the eye larger and relax the muscles in the eye. Next, lifestyle changes that include increased exposure to daylight and reduced visual activities that require up-close focus. A comprehensive eye exam will determine the prescription for the contact lenses.
Comprehensive eye care management will slow the progression of myopia in children and also prevent them from becoming highly myopic, another reason to implement a strict myopia control procedure. High myopia is becoming the leading cause of blindness worldwide (a five-fold increase from 2000).
“Even if your children are not myopic,” Dr. Van Amerongen says, “I recommend they receive an eye exam each year by an optometrist or ophthalmologist so preventative measures can begin if they are found to be at risk. In addition, daylight exposure also reduces the risk of developing myopia. Children should be advised to spend sufficient time outdoors, especially up to age 12. Lastly, we can reduce the impact of this epidemic on our children with reduced time spent on near based visual activities. This especially includes electronic devices that require constant focusing up close.”
Dr. Van is taking appointments for myopic/nearsighted children to establish a course of action for slowing the progression of myopia. He will also examine children without myopia so that preventive strategies can be employed if they are at risk. Call (970) 667-5508 during office hours to book an appointment.