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Myopia Control

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Updated June 05, 2009

In recent years the subject of myopia control has become a hot topic. Myopia is the medical term for nearsightedness, or difficulty in seeing distant objects. Many children who become nearsighted at an early age, and whose parents also have myopia, tend to become more myopic with time. Parents of these children often search for ways to slow down the rate at which their child's myopia worsens, especially parents who rely on thick glasses for clear vision.

Basics of myopia control:

Myopia control is the term given to different methods used to influence vision and brain development, or alter the growth of the eye itself, to achieve clear eyesight. Research shows that myopia may not be determined by genetic factors alone, but that the environment may also play a significant role. It is important to know that, at least at present, there is no solidly proven method to prevent nearsightedness.

Controversial methods:

Although controversial, there are several beliefs about reducing or slowing the progression of myopia:

  • Under-correcting nearsightedness: A child may become dependent on glasses if they wear them, so wearing time is limited or discouraged altogether.
  • Rigid gas-permeable lenses (RGP's): Wearing rigid lenses may lessen the severity of myopia.
  • Orthokeratology: Custom-shaped molds, usually worn during sleep, may flatten the cornea, reducing myopia.
  • Bifocal lenses: Bifocals may slow the progression of myopia.
  • Pharmacological therapy: Certain medications may affect the focusing muscles.

What you should know:

It is important to understand that the effectiveness of myopia control treatment is not known. Many of the methods are released to the public as "proven methods," but in reality, investigators do not know for sure how effective they actually are at preventing the progression of myopia.

Ongoing research:

Recent research performed by the dean of the University of Houston College of Optometry, Earl L. Smith III, OD, PhD, shows that one day we may be able to manipulate "visual experiences" in a way that would reduce myopia. His research addresses the way light is focused on the retina. Dr. Smith is finding that the manner in which light is focused on the retina may contribute to eyeball growth. Myopia research is ongoing because, for reasons unknown, the incidence of myopia is skyrocketing all over the world.

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