Nearsightedness is now considered an epidemic in the United States, having increased 66% in the United States since 1971. And the projections for the next generations are astounding.
So what is myopia and why is it increasing? In general, myopia, also known as near-sightedness, causes minor blur when looking at a distance, to having extremely poor vision at all distances in severe cases. The primary theories explaining the rapid growth in myopia relates to the increase use of technology in the past 30-40 years, particularly computers, genetics, and changes in our diet.
Treatments historically include glasses or contact lenses. As a practitioner, the dilemmas I face in the exam room are plentiful in regards to managing the progression of myopia. Prescribing glasses to an 8 year-old so they can see the board at school better is great; but then those glasses are also used invariably when reading, even though they are not needed for reading. Or office workers who experience blur far away after working on their computer, actually need relaxing lenses while on the screen rather than distance glasses. Treatments are not cut and dry, but understanding how a patient uses their eyes in their own environment is key to proper treatment and to preventing progression of myopia.
My preferred method of treating myopia and myopic progression in students is with the use of CRT (Corneal Refractive Therapy) contact lenses that are worn just while sleeping. The treatment involves wearing specialized lenses that reshape the cornea while sleeping, thereby reducing the myopia overnight. In the morning, the lenses are removed and vision is clear. Studies show that CRT lenses reduce the rate of progression of myopia by 80%. And the benefits are huge in terms of freedom from lenses for sports, prevention of eye diseases more common with myopia- like glaucoma and retinal holes, and a reduction of dryness from wearing contacts during the day.
Adults also can benefit from CRT lenses simply by having glasses free vision during the day and less dryness of their eyes. Costs of CRT lenses range from $1,200 to 1,400 for the initial treatment and lenses, and generally less than half that for subsequent years. The best candidates are children just beginning to be nearsighted, and anyone with prescriptions less than -4.00 diopters with minimal astigmatism. It’s so cool to have this technology that can make a definite impact on the epidemic tendencies of myopia!
Dr. Ann Voss