Treating Myopia in Childhood

30th June 2022
Child wearing glasses

If you have recently been told that your child has Myopia, we understand that you may have some questions.

We will likely cover most of them here in our article below, but should you have anything specific you would like to discuss further we are here for you.

Our team at your local branch are always happy to share their knowledge, so feel free to contact us directly to book an eye test or for further guidance. 

What is Myopia? 

Myopia is a condition also known as short-sightedness. It is a very common condition that causes objects in the distance to appear blurry and difficult to see. It is not something that just affects children, adults can also have and develop myopia too.

As an example of how it affects vision, someone with Myopia would likely find it a challenge to read a menu board, see the television or drive confidently due to lack of clarity in their vision. Without the optical correction or treatment to assist, blurred vision can be frustrating, a hindrance and in some circumstances like driving, dangerous.

Myopia occurs when the eye grows too long, meaning that the way in which light enters the eye is impacted. Instead of the light focussing on the back of the eye as it should, it retains focus on the front of the retina (the light sensitive layer of cells at the back of the eye). This results in objects that are further away appearing blurry. To have clear vision, light must focus directly on the retina.

Myopia is generally picked up during routine eye tests. It can present itself very mildly, in which case an individual may not require treatment, however if left unmonitored this can result in a more severe case of short-sightedness that would have a detrimental effect on a person’s vision.

The condition is always measured in negative numbers as follows;

  • Mild: -0.25 to -3.00
  • Moderate: -3.25 to -5.00
  • High: More than -5.00

Is Myopia the same as Astigmatism?

No, whilst Myopia is sometimes confused with astigmatism, these are not the same condition. The main signifier being that those suffering with Myopia will experience blurred vision when trying to focus on objects in the distance. Those with astigmatism will experience blurred vision continually, regardless of the distance they are viewing an object from.

What are the signs of Myopia in children? 

As a parent, you could start to notice Myopia symptoms in children from any age. Often starting in childhood, Myopia often becomes worse during adolescence, as the body grows and changes, which can sometimes include the elongation of the eye. It is possible for it to stabilise without intervention.

Indicators that your child could be suffering from Myopia are;

  • Complaining of headaches 
  • Rubbing their eyes frequently 
  • Struggling to read the board during school 
  • Needing to move closer to objects and screens, such as the television, than deemed necessary 
  • Frowning or squinting when looking into the distance

If you have noticed any of the above and suspect your child could be short-sighted, be sure to book an eye test at a local and trusted optician promptly. As a routine, your child’s eyes should be tested annually. 

Your child’s eye health should be treated as a priority, so we always recommend getting in touch to arrange an eye test immediately should you have any concerns surrounding their vision in between routine checks.

What risks are associated with Myopia? 

There is evidence that people with Myopia are at a higher risk of developing sight threatening eye problems later in life as the Myopia increases. This is due to the eye becoming more elongated as it becomes more Myopic, thus stretching the eyes structures and membranes.

Risk factors for becoming highly Myopic include:

  • Parents with Myopia
  • East Asian ethnic origin 
  • Myopia before the age of nine 
  • Spending limited time outside and being heavily engaged in activities using near vision  

Myopia has been linked to the development of Retinal Detachment, Glaucoma and Cataracts, which can develop in later life. 

Is Myopia an epidemic? 

Myopia is thought to currently affect up to 1 in 3 in the UK and is set to increase by 56% in western Europe by 2050. It has more than doubled in children aged between 10-16 years in the UK over the past 50 years. 

Myopia is not an infectious disease and can therefore not be classed as an epidemic, however it is becoming more and more common as time goes on. Whilst it is not actually classified as a visual impairment in it’s own right either, a -8D Myope is 10 times more at risk of visual impairment compared to a -4D myope.

Myopia is a genetic condition, meaning it can be passed from one family member to another. However, interestingly, it is also influenced by environmental factors.

Increased screen time and a reduction of outside play in childhood has also been cited as a factor in the rise in the condition.

Recent studies involving over 10,000 children have indicated that encouraging your child to play outside can have a positive impact in reducing Myopia. According to the research carried out by the University of Cambridge indicated that children with Myopia spent an average of 3.7 hours less outdoors, compared to children who had vision deemed normal or who were longsighted. Interestingly, the researchers also discovered that for every extra hour spent outdoors, their risk of developing Myopia reduced by around 2%.

“Increasing children’s outdoor time could be a simple and cost-effective measure with important benefits for their vision,” says Dr. Anthony Khawaja, the Ophthalmologist at Cambridge who presented the study.

In addition to spending more time outside, reducing the amount of close work done also helps for example the reduction of screen time and prolonged amount of book work.

Is there a cure for Myopia?

Unfortunately the answer for now is no, there is not a cure for Myopia as once the eye is elongated this cannot be reversed. We are encouraged that there is ongoing research surrounding Myopia, its causes and its effects which have already provided many solutions to treat the condition effectively.

Using proven methods to manage the symptoms, such as the use of corrective lenses, we are able to slow down the progression of myopia considerably. In some cases we can almost halt it and prevent it from continuing to get worse.

Promisingly, new research does suggest that the use of specific contact lenses in early years could help to prevent the development of Myopia in later life. If you are interested in learning more about this, we have discussed it in more depth below.

What are the possible treatments for Myopia? 

Myopia, in most cases, can be treated effectively in order to reduce symptoms and improve an individual’s sight. The main way in which we do this, particularly in children, is with the use of corrective lenses (glasses or specialist contact lenses).

In more extreme cases, laser eye surgery or artificial lens implants are an option, but these procedures are not usually recommended or carried out on children. These treatments are also not currently offered within the NHS.

Our eye care practitioners can advise whether your child is suitable to be treated. Every child is different, and each treatment is tailored to suit them. 

How we are reducing Myopia in children with the use of contact lenses.

Whilst the research is still in its infancy, current evidence suggests that using special contact lenses may be able to reduce how quickly Myopia gets worse by up to 60%. These effects are usually seen after one to two years, but it can take longer.

Slowing the progression of Myopia, can in turn, help to support the reduction of other longer term eye health issues which can develop later on in life, such as Cataracts and Glaucoma.

These preventative treatments are not currently available via the NHS, so they would require the intervention of a specialist optician, such as ourselves to ensure that the treatment provided is right for your child.

Due to the time needed to provide the treatment and the early nature of the research, overall, results can not yet be guaranteed.

There are two types of contact lenses which may be used to manage myopia:

Soft daily disposable contact lenses (for example MiSight 1 day contact lenses by Cooper vision) which have been designed to change the focus of light in the peripheral vision. Your child would wear these in a similar way to standard daily disposable contact lenses.

Orthokeratology (Ortho-K) or corneal reshaping lenses are specially designed rigid gas-permeable (RGP) lenses. The lenses are worn overnight to alter the shape of the front of their eye (cornea) while you sleep. This temporarily reduces or corrects mild Myopia and reduces the progression of Myopia.

Spectacle Lenses:

There are now specially designed spectacle lenses that look the same as traditional glasses but change the focus in the peripheral vision (what can be seen at the side when looking ahead). One example of these includes Stellest Lenses.

Whilst the Stellest lens appears visually to look as a regular contact lens does, each lens uses HALT technology (highly aspherical lenticular target) and is actually made up of 11 concentric circles of tiny aspherical lenslets, surrounding a central vision zone. These lenses tend to be a good option for children as the makeup and geometry of each lenslet is carefully created to follow the geometry of a child’s retina, which varies from that of an adult. The lenslets allow focused light on all parts of the peripheral retina so eye elongation is not promoted and therefore slows down the progress of Myopia. The precise focussing effect is then maintained at near and distance viewing and in all directions of gaze.

Recent studies have shown that the Stellest lens can slow down Myopic progression by 67%* on average compared to standard ophthalmic lenses, if worn 12 hours a day.

We know that 12 hours of use can be hard to achieve in children, however even when worn for a shorter period of time, the reduction of Myopia still sits at around 55% on average.

*The study was a 2 year double masked trial on children aged 8-13 yrs on Myopes -0.75D to -4.75D. 

Whilst we realise that the thought of wearing contact lenses as a child may seem daunting, once they have been shown how to put lenses in and take them out, we find that children adapt to wearing lenses remarkably quickly. In fact, a recent study by Essilor has also shown that 90% of children adapted to the Stellest lens within three days with 100% of the children being fully adapted to them by the end of week one. As a result, Essilor says the product should be recommended to myopes between 5 and 16 years old.

You can learn more about the Stellest lens in this short video;

Thanks to our expertise and specialist technology in our clinics, our team are perfectly placed to be able to test, advise and fit your child’s contact lenses and/or spectacles within a safe and comfortable environment. We give them all the time they need to adjust to their new lenses and will be on hand should you, or they,  have any questions. 

Concerned about your child’s eye health? 

If you have concerns that your child could be experiencing any of the aforementioned conditions or symptoms, or would like to enquire further about the prevention of Myopia in children, please get in touch to book an eye examination.

Posted by Dipple Conway

"I’m very impressed by the friendly and helpful attitude of the staff at Dipple and Conway, and by the very competent and professional service my optometrist provided. It really is a pleasure to ones eyes tested there."

Mike Lindsay
Optician Awards Finalist Investor in People The College of Optometrists British Contact Lens Association Association of Dispensing Opticians Best Family Business 2020

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