What is myopia progression?
As mentioned earlier Myopia, or shortsightedness, is predominantly the result of an elongation of the eye, so the eye grows too much. The longer the eyeball, the higher the levels of myopia.
Myopia progression is when this eye elongation continues throughout our growing years, making children, teenagers, and young adults the most susceptible to worsening vision from increasing myopia.
The growing clinical interest and recent bloom in literature surrounding myopia has given us a better understanding of the importance in managing the progression of young myopes.
Simply accepting stronger and stronger lenses is no longer standard of care for shortsighted patients.
Why start early? Why act now?
We know that younger children have the fastest progression of myopia, so the younger you are when myopia develops the quicker it gets worse. The risk of myopia progression increases significantly if a child becomes short-sighted at age 9 or younger.
Also, the more shortsighted a child is, compared to other children the same age, the greater the risk of progression. So the worse the myopia is, the more likely it will continue to get worse.
The studies show that if the onset of myopia is before the age of 10, around 70% will be -3.00D to -6.00D by the age of 15, and 28% will be more than -6.00D.
Kids get more myopic as they grow as the eye continues to elongate with development. We know myopia occurs during the growing years and tends to stabilize once we reach adulthood. It is impossible to undo the effects of an eye that has already stretched down the track, so childhood is the opportunity to reduce the lifetime risk of uncorrectable visual impairment.
Do Glasses Make Myopia Worse?
Wearing simple glasses for myopia certainly corrects the defocus, making the distance vision clear. Traditional glasses work by focussing the central light on the retina to give us crisp, sharp, clear vision.
Whilst a single focus lens works well at improving our sight, it doesn’t control the light within the surrounding areas of the eye. In a simple pair of distance glasses, the peripheral light is focussed behind the retina. This defocus stimulates the peripheral nerve cells to “feel the need to try and catch up” to fix the defocus, and hence the eye continues to elongate, making the vision worse, and the prescription stronger as a result. It’s a cycle that continues throughout the growing years in a shortsighted individual.
Over the years there have been many studies and much debate and controversy in the area of myopia prevention and slowing progression.
Some people believe that not increasing the myopic prescription in glasses to the full strength, and accepting slightly blurry vision, will help the worsening shortsightedness, but it doesn’t.
Also, as expensive as it is for parents to keep continually increasing the prescription of their child’s glasses, overestimating the script to save money will only make the myopia worse too.
Research has proven that both an undercorrection and overcorrection strategy actually speeds up the worsening of myopia. It’s important myopic children have the correct prescription in their glasses for optimum boost in their vision.
Historically some optometrists have advocated prescribing multifocal lenses in glasses for myopic children. Whilst it certainly can’t hurt, it has minimal effect on controlling myopia progression.
The theory of reducing myopia progression is to control the eye’s peripheral focus. So sadly, that does mean that wearing normal glasses only encourages the myopia to get worse. Nowadays, traditional spherical minus lenses in spectacles are no longer considered best practice.
All treatment options practiced at the Myopia Clinic Newcastle within Custom Eyecare Newcastle are evidence based and designed to focus peripheral (edge) light in front of the retina, slowing the growth of the eye.
Customised eyecare that prevents or slows the progression of myopia is better than simply accepting stronger & stronger lenses. As behavioural optometrists, at Custom Eyecare we are more interested in the prevention of myopia rather than the easy option of simply prescribing stronger & stronger glasses.
The first step is a thorough Myopia assessment including carefully measuring the eye length, known as axial ocular length measurements.
What can you do?
At the Myopia Clinic, within Custom Eyecare in Newcastle’s Darby Street, we recommend that all children, especially those at risk of myopia, spend some time outdoors every day. Ideally at least 90 minutes a day outdoors, even though this can seem hard to achieve in our busy lives.
Moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 60 minutes a day is recommended for school aged children. If this is spent outdoors, all the better for their visual development.
Contact us to arrange a myopia assessment and comprehensive general eye & vision check.
Further Reading & Resources
“The Case for Myopia Control Now” – an article by a US professor of ophthalmology (eye surgeon) urging action to slow down myopia.
For some further interesting reading on the topic of myopia prevention, and links to all scientific research articles of myopia control, head to our favourite external website, composed by leaders in our field www.myopiaprevention.org