Q: What Can Be Done to Prevent Myopia? By Dr. Leong
A recent research study based out of Waterloo, Ontario suggests that the onset of myopia (also known as nearsightedness, or blurred far vision) is starting at an earlier age than previous generations. The prevalence of myopia in Canadian school children aged 11 to 13 years of age is almost 30%. A known risk factor for myopia includes family history (one myopic parent increases the risk of a child being myopic by 152.4%). Other risk factors include extended near work, Asian descent, and not breastfed as an infant.
Current methods of myopia control include:
- Spending time outdoors. The Waterloo study results found that the only activity that significantly reduced myopia progression was spending more time outdoors. When children had spent one additional hour outdoors per day, the incidence of myopia was significantly reduced.
- Under-correcting the glasses prescription – Research indicates this does NOT work! It actually enhances myopia progression.
- Rigid gas permeable lenses – traditional rigid lenses that align to the cornea does NOT prevent myopia progression. However, ortho-keratology is a specialty rigid lens design used for overnight wear to prevent myopia progression and is currently used successfully by some eye doctors for myopia control.
- Specialty glasses such as Myovision lenses use a special peripheral lens technology that prevents progression of myopia. Some success has also been observed with this lens design.
- Specialty soft multifocal contact lenses for myopia control are being used in other parts of the world and is expected to arrive soon in Canada.
- Pharmaceuticals such as low dose atropine (0.01%) is used to prevent accommodation (muscles within the eyes used to focus at near) and prevent myopia progression.
Myopia has more than one cause, so myopia control involves more than one method to prevent progression of myopia.
It is recommended that in general, children limit near tasks to a maximum of two hours/day. This includes time on handheld digital devices, reading, and drawing. Toddlers and infants under age two should have zero screen time. It is important to consider lighting and working distance with such tasks. All ages can benefit from the 20/20/20 rule of thumb, which refers to 20 minutes of near work followed by a break for the eyes to look 20 feet away for a minimum of 20 seconds. Taking the time for healthy habits will help towards 20/20 vision for a lifetime.