How can myopia be treated?
Myopia treatment can be looked at in two ways.
1. The first deals with correcting the blurred vision that someone with myopia sees.
Myopic patients struggle to see things at a distance but are usually able to see near objects reasonably well, depending on how short-sighted they are.
Myopia can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses and some myopic patients may be suitable for laser corrective surgery or other corrective surgeries. Currently there is a large amount of research being undertaken in this area as the prevalence of myopia continues to grow rapidly.
2. The second part of myopia treatment is called ‘myopia control’ and this deals with slowing down the progression of myopia.
People with myopia usually progress relatively quickly, especially young people with myopia. This means that they progressively become more short-sighted over a short amount of time and their glasses or contact lenses need to be updated and made stronger on a regular basis.
Currently there is a large amount of research being undertaken in this area as the prevalence of myopia continues to grow rapidly. We call this myopia control, because we are trying to control how fast the eye is growing and therefore how quickly the myopia is progressing.
Myopia control is a tiered approach.
It begins with lifestyle factors like spending more time outdoors and less time on handheld digital devices. Currently there are three strong contenders in myopia control.
The first option is soft multi-focal contact lenses.
These are daily disposable or monthly disposable soft contact lenses that are worn during waking hours. They correct the patient’s short-sightedness by giving them clear vision at all distances. They also have a ring of defocus in the peripheral part of the contact lens which puts a ring of mild blur in the patients’ peripheral vision which is usually unnoticeable by the patient. By doing this it signals to the eye to slow down its growth.
Like all myopic control techniques this does not completely stop eye growth. It does slow down myopia progression by approximately 50%. The benefit of this treatment is that as the myopia progresses the patient’s contact lens prescription can be modified easily to improve vision.
The second option is called orthokeratology (or orthoK).
OrthoK uses hard contact lenses (called rigid gas permeable lenses) to reshape the front surface of the eye while you sleep. Through corneal reshaping the vision can be corrected during the day without the use of glasses or contact lenses. These lenses apply pressure onto the cornea via the tear film so the lens itself doesn’t push on the eye and there is no discomfort while you sleep.
Because everyone’s corneal shape is different each orthoK lens must be designed to fit your eye perfectly. This can be complex and can take some time to get the right fit. Depending on the level of short-sightedness, orthoK can take between 1-4 weeks to give perfect vision. During this period, we will fit you with soft contact lenses so you will still be able to see properly.
OrthoK lenses can last up to 2 years if cared for correctly. Typically, new lenses may need to be refitted and replaced every year.
The third option in this space is the use of atropine sulphate eye drops.
Atropine eye drops are a prescription medication that are purchased through a pharmacy. For this purpose, the drops must be diluted to a very low dosage. This is done through a compounding pharmacy, although there is no compounding pharmacy in Port Augusta, the drops are easily organised and posted to you from Adelaide.
The drops are used in both eyes every night before bed. The medication in the drop binds to certain receptors in the eye to signal to the eye to stop growing. This treatment option doesn’t correct the blurred vision associated with myopia so glasses or contact lenses are still necessary.
Any reduction in the rate of myopia progression is beneficial as the risk of associated eye disease increases proportionally with increases in myopia.
All three of these myopia control techniques aim to slow the growth of the eye but will not halt growth completely. Any reduction in the rate of myopia progression is beneficial as the risk of associated eye disease increases proportionally with increases in myopia. The three above techniques are all of similar effectiveness, but one may be more suited to you, or your child.
At Gulf & Ranges Optometrists we are equipped with the expert knowledge and equipment to successfully manage patients with myopia, including our new piece of equipment which measures the length of the eye for more precise tracking of myopia.