Myopia, also known as nearsightedness, is commonly seen as an inconvenience, but myopia is not just a children's vision issue, it is a children's health issue. Myopia is becoming a global crisis and has increased by 66% in the US since 1971. By 2050 it is expected nearly half of the world’s population will be myopic.
We spoke with Optometrist and expert Dr. Leah Johnson to get her feedback about what parents should know about myopia and their children’s vision health.
But first, get to know Dr. Johnson:
- Graduate of University of Houston
- Had a focus on fitting specialty contact lenses at the University of Houston during her post-doctorate fellowship.
- Worked in a private practice with a young family demographic and has had plenty of experience working with children.
- Trains optometrists worldwide, most notably in China where the prevalence of myopia has increased rapidly in the last 50-60 years. In urban areas in China 80-90% of children completing high school are now myopic.
Question 1: What should parents know about myopia?
Many parents are unfamiliar with the term myopia or some may be familiar with the term nearsighted. Myopia or commonly known as nearsightedness is an eye condition where near objects are clear and distant objects are blurry. When someone has myopia, they need to hold books or tablets close to read them.
Also, there is an association with myopia and the increasing length of the eye. The longer the eye grows, the more likely there is an increase in the amount of myopia.
As the eye lengthens the back of the eye stretches, including the retina. Because of this a person has an increased risk for many ocular diseases later in life such as:
- Retinal detachment
- Retinal holes and tears
- Myopic macular degeneration
- Premature cataracts
Question 2: What are common questions about myopia you’ve heard from parents?
Common Question 1: If my child wears glasses as correction, will my child’s eyes get weaker and need a stronger prescription?
Not necessarily, and if a parent decides their child is going to wear glasses, the child should always wear glasses at the full power of their prescription. Research studies show that undercorrection leads to faster myopia progression than full correction! Undercorrection is where a child is given a lower prescription than they need, and there is a misconception that vision must be “exercised” to function correctly.
According to the article, Controlling Myopia Progression in Children and Adolescents, treatment options such as undercorrection of myopia and gas permeable contact lenses have all been proven to be ineffective for myopia control. The most effective methods are the use of soft bifocal contact lenses, topical pharmaceutical agents such as atropine, and orthokeratology contact lenses. Orthokeratology, also known as Ortho-K, is a solution for patients with myopia that uses specially designed contact lenses to reshape the cornea to improve vision. Paragon CRT® Contact Lenses are Ortho-K Lenses. Paragon CRT® Lenses offer overnight vision correction, are FDA-approved, and have provided patients in more than 50 countries a safe, effective treatment for myopia.
Common Question 2: When will my child’s myopia stop progressing or increasing each year?
Studies show that by 16 years old, 50% of children stop progressing. That also means that 50% of children are still progressing. Some people continue to progress even into their 20s. There is no “hard answer” for this question.
Common Question 3: Are there eye exercises, nutraceuticals, or a diet that my child can undertake to slow down the progression of myopia?
There is no research at this time that shows diet, supplements, or eye exercises as an effective method for slowing down the lengthening of the eye, which leads to myopia. Studies suggest that vitamin D (from sunlight) plays a protective role in ocular health. Certain nutrients such as such as vitamins C and E, β-carotene, and zinc can help decrease the risk of age-related eye disease.
When focusing on myopia and taking an active role in treatment, specialized contact lens such as Ortho-K are one of the most effective forms of vision correction.
Question 3: What do you think the future of CRT/Ortho-k lenses will entail?
Current orthokeratology lenses, on average, slow down the progression of myopia about 50%. The future of Ortho-K will be to research design modifications to increase the effectiveness of slowing down the progression of myopia. With the increasing frequency of myopia across the globe, it is only logical to expect more investments and research into ways to treat and even prevent the condition.
Make Sure Your Children See the Eye Doctor Every Year!
You can learn more about the myopia epidemic on our website. Onset of myopia can begin as early as age six! When left undiagnosed and untreated, myopia can lead to a host of complications, from an impaired ability to learn to ocular diseases later in life such as retinal detachment and myopic macular degeneration. Early detection is the key to prevention and reduction of these issues. Many doctors, including Dr. Johnson suggest children visit an eyecare professional every year to check their vision health.
 Vitale S, Sperduto RD, Ferris FL 3rd. Increased prevalence of Myopia in the U.S. between 1971-1972 and 1999-2004. Arch Ophthalmol. 2009 Dec; 127(12): 1632-9. PubMed
 Holden BA, Fricke TR, Wilson DA, Jong M, Naidoo KS, Sankaridurg P, Wong TY, Naduvilath TJ, Resnikoff S, Global Prevalence of Myopia and High Myopia and Temporal Trends from 2000 through 2050, Ophthalmology, May 2016 Volume 123, Issue 5, Pages 1036–1042
 Pan C-W, Ramamurthy D, Saw S-M. Worldwide prevalence and risk factors for myopia. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics. 2012;32(1):3-16
 &  D.I. Filtcroft, Progress in Retinal and Eye Research 31 (2012) 622-660
 &  Smith, M. J., & Walline, J. J. (2015, August 13). Controlling myopia progression in children and adolescents. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4542412/
 FDA Approval Letter
 Paragon Vision Sciences, Data on file, 2017
 &  Scheiman, M., Zhang, Q., Gwiazda, J., Hyman, L., Harb, E., Weissberg, E., . . . T. (2013). Visual activity and its association with myopia stabilisation. OPO The Journal of the College of Optometrists. Retrieved February 28, 2019, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/opo.12111.
 Reins, R. Y., & McDermott, A. M. (2015, February 25). Vitamin D: Implications for Ocular Disease and Therapeutic Potential. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4426046/
 Rasmussen, H. M., & Johnson, E. J. (2013, June 19). Nutrients for the aging eye. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3693724/