I’ve been nearsighted since childhood. That means without my glasses or contact lenses, unless things are very close to me, I can’t see them very well. Not very well at all. So, it’s very easy for me to relate to the millions of people worldwide who are also nearsighted.
In the past several years, it has become very clear that the incidence of myopia (the technical term for nearsightedness) is increasing. In fact, it’s increasing at an alarming level. Today, it’s estimated that approximately 30% of the world’s population is myopic. By 2050, that number is expected to jump to 50%. That’s 5 billion people!
Myopia can cause more problems than just making the distance vision blurry. People with myopia are more likely to develop certain eye diseases, such as glaucoma. Myopic patients are also much more likely to suffer from retinal detachment, which has the potential to cause significant vision loss.
In the past, when we saw nearsighted children in our clinic, we would prescribe glasses and/or contact lenses to improve their distance vision. Then, as we would see these patients in subsequent years, we would increase the power of their glasses and contacts as their nearsightedness would progress. We were powerless to prevent or slow down the myopia – we just adjusted the prescription as their eyes got worse.
In the last few years, however, incredible strides have been made in the field of myopia management. Today, instead of just helplessly watching children’s eyes become more and more myopic, we have tools that allow us to slow down the progression of myopia. In fact, the amount of total nearsightedness can be cut in half if the treatment is implemented early enough (usually before age 12, preferably around age 6-7).
Myopia management treatment can include prescription eye drops, special contact lenses, and/or lifestyle modifications. We always sit down with the patient and parents, discuss the pros and cons of each treatment option, and form a customized plan for each patient.
Myopia is more than just an annoyance that forces patients to wear glasses. It’s an eye condition that puts patients at risk for sight threatening eye diseases. And the prevalence of myopia is growing at an alarming rate. Finally, we have treatment options that can proactively slow down myopia progression. I only wish these options were available when I was a kid – maybe then I could see across the room without my glasses!
Until next time –
Clint Taylor, OD