By: Dr. Amber Teten, Chesapeake Pediatric Eye Doctor
So, what is the big deal with “MYOPIA?” Why is your optometrist or eye doctor discussing myopia control and focusing on children? Myopia, nearsightedness, is a genuine problem that has been ignored for too long, and we need to act to combat it for future generations. Are you or your child nearsighted? If so, you are not alone! This condition is becoming very common in children and adults.
By 2050, more than 50% of the world’s population will be nearsighted. A high prevalence of myopia, in turn, is causing the risk of related eye diseases to be greater than ever. Myopic eye disease is projected to be the number one cause of vision impairment in our lifetime. We must act now to preserve the visual future of this generation. And with the help of specialty contact lenses and guidelines for daily activities, we have the tools and knowledge to significantly decrease myopia progression (Myopia control) and lower the risk of eye diseases that could result from high levels of myopia as our children grow older.
The vision of our children is literally in our hands to help save! Wow, to Dr. Teten and the Navigation Eye Care team that is impactful and influential in the recommendations for myopia management in pediatric patients.
Let’s look at some of the key points that Dr. Teten and other top pediatric eye doctors discuss in why myopia matters and how to manage the prevention of eye diseases.
What is myopia?
What are the key things to look for in myopia management in children? Myopia (nearsightedness) is a refractive error condition that requires vision correction with contact lenses or glasses to see with the best possible visual acuity, such as 20/20 on an eye chart. It is called nearsightedness, where the child experiences blurred vision and difficulty seeing objects in the distance.
The most common first sign is the child holding objects such as books or toys close to them or moving close to the TV. Or you might see the child squinting to see the board at school. Nearsightedness often runs in families, most common if both parents are nearsighted and one parent is nearsighted.
Myopia, in time, may progress to Myopic Eye Disease, where the layers that make up the eye called the retina become thinner, causing risks of eye health conditions. Myopic Eye Disease is a disease with detrimental risks of lifelong subsequent vision loss and eye health issues. Myopia is stretching and straining of the eye, increasing the risk of Myopic eye disease. With a longer eyeball, the entering light into the eye cannot focus on the retina, causing far away objects to be blurry. Myopia-induced eye diseases include Glaucoma, Cataracts, Retinal Tears or Detachments, Myopia Maculopathy or Macular Degeneration. These diseases are sight-threatening due to high myopia.
Time – early action is key
The key to myopia management is early detection. So, let’s be on the lookout for myopia together! Early detection is vital for the effective treatment of myopia progression in children. The optimal age to detect the beginning progression of myopia is three to seven years. So, it is imperative to have your children’s eyes examined by the time they reach three years of age by a top pediatric eye doctor in Chesapeake, like Dr. Teten.
Here is an example: One diopter (or four steps) increases myopia and the risk of developing Myopic Macular Degeneration goes up by 67%. Neglecting to treat a seemingly slight increase in myopia prescription at your child’s next eye exam puts them at risk of sight-threatening diseases as they age. However, we can do something about myopia, and this is where the great option of FDA-approved specialty contact lenses is critical for prevention and better eye health.
Management and prescription
First and foremost, REGULAR glasses and contact lenses do NOT slow the progression of myopia (nearsightedness). Specialty myopia contact lenses proven effective do exist! YAY! So, the next time your child’s prescription keeps increasing at their eye exam, you can trust that a top pediatric eye doctor, like Dr. Teten, will offer myopia control, not just regular glasses or contact lenses, as a treatment option.
One of the best ways to treat myopia is using comfortable and convenient daily disposable contact lenses (Cooper Vision MiSight). Dr. Teten often hears of the hesitation from parents to put their young children in contact lenses, and as a mom of young children, she sympathizes with this concern. However, daily disposable contact lenses are safe, effective, and easy to handle. Small fingers handle lenses easier than adults in many cases, and children often learn the new insertion and removal skills faster than adults. Kids catch on quickly, especially with a great team, such as ours at Navigation Eye Care in Chesapeake. We can train you and your child and even show fun videos of kids safely putting in and taking out their contact lenses.
A second good option to treat myopia is with the use of an optical retainer. Moreover, this is a rigid contact lens the child sleeps in and wakes up with a corrected vision for the next day. This treatment is ongoing each night. Like a retainer for teeth at night, this contact lens (OrthoK or CRT) is proven to slow the length of the eye and simultaneously correct vision during the day.
It is important to note that each of the above treatments comes with in-office training to be there every step of the way for the pediatric patient and the parents. And, then the process of myopia management includes timely follow-up appointments with Dr. Teten, usually within the first week of treatment, to ensure the correct lenses have been fit and see how they are working, then about a month, then six months, and a year. So, this is a treatment process as a team – Dr. Teten, the child, the parents- and we at Navigation Eye Care are always here to help ensure the treatment is effective and successful.
Be sure to ask Dr. Teten more questions about these options for treating myopia at your child’s next pediatric eye doctor visit. More importantly, ensure your child has an eye exam to check if they have myopia or are at risk of developing it as they age. Again, the time of the start of treatment is super important to prevent progression. Click here to schedule an appointment with Dr. Teten at Navigation Eye Care in Chesapeake.
What you can do now at home
You might hear that your child needs to limit screen time on digital devices. This limitation might make you cringe as a parent, as your child works on a computer at school or plays digital games for fun. Don’t be alarmed to think there is nothing you can do to help in this area. While the length of time spent on digital devices such as smartphones, computers, and tablets contributes to myopia, genetics also plays a role in the increase in myopia seen in pediatric patients. Are there guidelines for screen time for children? Yes! The key is to provide a healthy balance in your child’s day.
Dr. Teten and other top pediatric eye doctors recommend, in general, limiting screen time to one hour per day. Take breaks often, at least 20 seconds, looking across the room every 20 minutes on a digital device; this helps relax the near-focus muscles of the eye. Also, to put less strain on the eye muscles, move the digital devices farther out (Harmon’s distance or more) so stretch out that distance to arm’s length away.
A BIG thing you can do at home is to go outdoors. It is proven to prevent or delay the onset of myopia by spending at least one hour outside. It does not matter if it is a cloudy day; outdoor natural light and open space are the keys to reducing the level of myopia later in a patient’s life. So, enjoy the Chesapeake weather with your kiddos for 60-120 minutes daily. Walk, run, jump, skip, gallop, do cartwheels or somersaults, play tag or football or hide-in-seek, walk the dogs, make sidewalk chalk art, find leaves in the Fall, and guess how many steps it takes to get down the street. Anything that relaxes those eye muscles and gives the eye natural outdoor light! Being outside is a perfect way to get all that kiddo energy to good use, and you as parents have fun with your kiddo.
If you or your child is experiencing the symptoms of myopia (nearsightedness), we encourage you to call the Navigation Eye Care team at 757-529-6889 or click here to schedule an appointment. We are equipped and prepared to take care of you and your children. If you are looking for excellent service in a kid-friendly manner, check us out. We highly recommend that you choose Navigation Eye Care when looking for a top pediatric eye doctor in Chesapeake for all the children in your family. We will serve in the Chesapeake area for many years and can’t wait to see you and your family.