Myopia occurs if the cornea is curved too much or the eye is longer than normal. Generally if the prescription is increasing quickly it is because the length of the eye is increasing. In other words the eye is growing too big, too fast.
Low levels of short-sightedness are an inconvenience with people requiring glasses or contacts to see clearly. Higher levels of short sightedness increase a person’s risk of developing potentially blinding conditions including retinal detachments and myopic degeneration of the central vision. Higher prescriptions also require thinner, more expensive lenses in glasses (which adds up over a lifetime), are less likely to qualify for laser correction and make people incredibly dependent on their glasses or contacts (especially when travelling or outdoors).
This is a complex question! The short answer is a lot of things. Genetics matter – if one or both parents are short-sighted then it is highly likely their children will be too. But the visual environment important too. In particular spending lots of time outside in natural lighting is better than sitting inside all day.
Over the years there has been a lot of research into the prevention and causes of myopia. There are four main tools that we have available to us that have been shown to be most effective in slowing or stopping the eye growing.
- Orthokeratology is a contact lens that is worn overnight to reshape the eye. During the day it allows people to see clearly without glasses. It works by reshaping the cornea to create ideal optical properties that act as signals to the eye that it is growing too fast.
- Atropine is an eye drop that when used daily slows the rate of eye growth. We use a 0.01% formulation which has almost no side effects. It also works to slow how fast the eye is growing
- Specialised soft contact lenses are worn each day and taken out each night. These lenses have the ability to slow the progression of short-sightedness.
- Progressive spectacle lenses
Your optometrist may recommend one or a combination of these treatments if the glasses prescription is changing rapidly, if the child is young and already has a moderate to high power in their glasses or the parents have moderate to high powered glasses.
YES. Does it work for everyone? No. Some children’s glasses strength will change more slowly, some will stop changing and others will keep changing – there are no guarantees. We can’t predict who will benefit the most, but the good news is it will help the majority of children.