Recent research in myopia prevention has shown that it is possible to slow down, and in many cases, stop children from becoming more nearsighted by the use of specially designed contact lenses. This is exciting to us as eye doctors because instead of simply providing the correct prescription each year so an increasingly nearsighted child can see clearly once more, we can actually do something to keep them from becoming progressively more nearsighted. While not having to buy stronger glasses every year is a nice benefit of myopia prevention, the most important reason for myopia prevention is that eye conditions such as glaucoma and retinal detachment become more likely with increasing myopia.
Myopia Prevention Methods
The first myopia prevention method that is cheap, easy, and readily available (at least some of the time here in Portland) is simply playing outside. Studies have shown that increased time spent outside by children is associated with lower levels of myopia. So, the first step in myopia prevention should definitely be simply having your child play outside more (here’s a link to Portland Parks and Recreation to start you off).
The other methods for preventing myopia used in the United States both involve specialty contact lenses. These contact lenses are designed to more closely correct peripheral defocus, because it is theorized (and has been shown in animal research) that peripheral defocus is linked to myopia progression. Corneal reshaping (or orthokeratology) contact lenses are worn at night to modify the shape of the cornea. Then, when the lenses are removed in the morning, the cornea that was reshaped while sleeping provides clear vision all day with no contact lens on at all.
Because this corneal reshaping also corrects peripheral defocus, it has been shown to be one of the best myopia prevention strategies that we have. Multifocal contact lenses with a center distance design have also been shown to reduce the rate of myopia prevention in some studies, but not as effectively or as repeatably as corneal reshaping contact lenses. More information on the research and treatment options regarding myopia prevention is available at myopiaprevention.org.