Myopia is an eye condition that blurs the distance vision but has a clear focal somewhere within arms reach. The greater the myopia, the closer focal point.
Halting the progression of myopia could impact the lives of about 42 million children in the U.S. Once myopia begins in children 8 to 13 years old, it usually gets worse by three quarters of a diopter per year. Eye glass prescriptions are made in quarters. There’s four quarters in a dollar and four quarters in a diopter. If a child is first diagnosed with myopia at the age of 8 and worsens at the usual rate, he or she will be a -6.00 by the age of 15. This means without visual correction they will only be able to see clear at a distance of six inches!
What causes nearsightedness? Don’t only blame genes. Although, several studies have shown that a child with one or both parents nearsighted increases the risk of myopia, genes can not fully explain the great surge in myopia world-wide. Neither does extended near work, such as reading and computers. Studies on populations that have not adopted a westernized lifestyle show that only 2% are nearsighted, while the U.S. is 41.6% as of 2004 and Asians are 60 to 80% myopic. In 1900, Eskimos had a near sighted rate of 2% and by the 1950’s with the adoption of a processed, sugary, westernized diet the rate was around 50%! Genes and environment play a role in myopia, but sugar may also have a critical role. A number of studies have shown that children with many cavities are more likely to have greater degrees of myopia.
What can be done at home to prevent or slow myopia?
- Get outside at least 12 hours a week.
- Minimize the amount of processed sugar in the diet. It’s recommended to consume less than eight teaspoons of sugar a day, while the typical American child consumes 22 teaspoons a day. (Four grams equals one teaspoon) Added sugar on the label can be called high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, cane sugar, dextrose, agave nectar, glucose, and sucrose to name a few.
- Apply the 20/20 rule. For every twenty minutes you read or stare at a computer/smartphone, take a 20 second break and look at the window or at something 20 feet away. The eyes need to focus and work harder while doing near work and they relax when viewing in the distance. Another theory of myopic progression is that the eyes become nearsighted due to excessive near work.
- Wear up-to-date glasses. When under corrected (i.e., old prescription or not wearing glasses) the eyes get worse at a faster rate of nearsightedness.
What can be prescribed by your eye doctor to prevent or slow myopia?
- Orthokeratology lenses also known as ortho-k, CRT, or GVSS. Very small retainers custom fit to your eyes, worn only for sleep and when removed in the morning, you have clear vision throughout the day! Works well for those who play sports that don’t allow glasses and contact lenses can get water or dirt on them, such as water polo, volleyball, cheerleading, football, baseball, and soccer to name a few.
- If not a candidate for ortho-k and myopic progression is a great concern, a very diluted dilating drop may be prescribed.
- In select cases, reading, bifocal or progressive glasses or multifocal contact lenses or eye exercises.
Dr. Uri Schechter cares for patients of all ages concentrating on fitting contact lenses and providing medical eye care. He has consulted with a number of pharmaceutical and contact lens companies, working to improve the products that his patients utilize. He attends continuing education all over the country, applying the latest research and technology in his practice every day. Fox Chase makes it a policy to ensure that all staff members are up-to-date on the latest techniques to make your visit as comfortable and effective as possible.