Last updated on May 30th, 2020
If your child has myopia (near-sightedness), they are certainly not alone. Eye clinics in the UAE are well-accustomed to treating childhood myopia. Around 15% of 5 to 7-year-olds have myopia, rising to nearly 60% of older teenagers according to one study of children in Southern California, and up to 85-90% in China.
But, myopia’s prevalence doesn’t make it any easier to cope with. Myopia can cause big problems for children. Until diagnosis, your child may have been struggling through everyday situations, like not being able to see the teacher’s board clearly or play sports. This may have affected their academic life, social life and their happiness. They may have been struggling with headaches and fatigue, too.
Childhood Myopia Treatment
Now that they have a diagnosis of myopia, they may have been prescribed glasses to wear.
Glasses are a popular way of treating childhood myopia. They are simple, relatively low-cost and easily replaceable. However, some parents may not be aware that there are alternatives to glasses, including orthokeratology, that may benefit their child’s eyesight more in the long-term.
Children and glasses
While some children get on well with glasses, they aren’t a magic solution for all children. Many dislike wearing glasses. Perhaps they feel uncomfortable in them or hindered physically when engaging in games and sports. Maybe they feel self-conscious. Or they periodically lose or break their glasses, as well.
Another important consideration is that glasses do not prevent myopia progression. Your child may often need to have their prescription updated to reflect the decline in their vision.
However, there is a treatment that can offer more convenience and better vision in the long term. This is orthokeratology, or Ortho-K lenses, as these are often called.
What Is Orthokeratology?
Orthokeratology is a non-surgical treatment that improves vision. In the short term, it improves it enough to not need glasses while treatment continues. In the long term, it can slow down and sometimes halt further vision deterioration during the growing years of life.
Patients wear specially designed lenses overnight, and nothing during the day. During nighttime wear, Ortho-K lenses are working to gently and temporarily reshape the eyes’ front curvature.
The effects of this last long enough to allow good vision at all distances the next day. But, there is also plenty of evidence to suggest that these lenses may benefit childhood wearers in the long term, too.
Here are three key benefits of Ortho-K.
How does Ortho-K benefit children?
1. Children need not wear any other vision correction during the day
For almost every patient, wearing Ortho-K lenses overnight will prevent the need for any other daytime prescription, such as glasses or contact lenses.
Those children (or adults) who dislike glasses, this will come as a huge relief. For the first time in what may be years, children can enjoy clear vision without the need to take care of glasses. Sports and many other activities are more enjoyable again. Confidence levels may rise, as a result.
It is certainly easier for parents to be able to supervise the need for vision correction only at night when children are at home. There will be no more need to worry about lost or broken glasses while children are out at school. No more worries about contact lenses causing problems while your child is out and about.
2. It can slow down the progression of myopia
While researchers continue to gather and analyze data in this area, it is already proving very likely that orthokeratology can make a big difference to the long-term prognosis for childhood myopia sufferers.
One significant study in Hong Kong published in 2012 compared the outcomes for two groups of myopic children. One group wore glasses for two years whereas the other wore Ortho-K lenses over the same period. The researchers found that myopia progressed least in the group treated with Ortho-K. It was also noted that the greatest benefits to long-term vision were experienced by the youngest children treated with Ortho-K.
Similar studies elsewhere have reached the same conclusions: that myopia progression can often be slowed through orthokeratology. This is why clinicians recommend orthokeratology for myopia control to many parents.
Childhood myopia is also associated with a greater risk of serious eye problems later in life, including retinal detachment. Thus it is crucial, wherever possible, to slow down or halt the progression of myopia. Orthokeratology presents a valuable opportunity to make a positive difference to a child’s long-term eye health.
3. Orthokeratology is non-surgical and low-risk
Laser eye surgery is an option for treating myopia in adults, but it is rarely available for children. Myopia must stabilize before this treatment can be used, and this is unlikely to happen before 18 years of age.
Orthokeratology is a non-invasive alternative treatment that can be used on both children and adults. Treatment is straightforward and painless.
An eye exam is needed in the first instance. At this time, corneal mapping takes place. Once the personalized lenses are manufactured and ready, the patient returns to the eye clinic for a fitting appointment. You and your child will be taught how to use the lenses correctly and safely. You will also be booked in for regular follow-up appointments to check progress.
No treatment can be guaranteed as totally risk-free, but with a non-invasive procedure such as orthokeratology, the risks are low. A slight risk of infection is the main concern. However, if children are well-supervised and the hygiene practices you are shown by your eye doctor are followed, the risks are still small.
Orthokeratology is also completely reversible. This means that if any adverse symptoms are experienced, treatment can be stopped and the eyes will quickly return to their normal state.
Are Ortho-K lenses right for my child?
Only a visit to the eye clinic can determine whether Ortho-K lenses are suitable for your child for sure. However, these are frequently recommended for many young patients, particularly those with mild to moderate myopia (-0.75 to -5.00D) and those with mild hyperopia (farsightedness) up to +3.00D. Customized Designed Ortho-K lense makes a wider range of correction possible for suitable patients.
Sporty and active children will likely benefit from Ortho-K lenses. Many other children who are not getting on with glasses will also appreciate switching to these lenses. They are not difficult to use once both parent and child become accustomed to the handling and hygiene routine. They are not uncomfortable to wear overnight either and should not interfere with your child’s sleep.
With orthokeratology, your child’s everyday quality of life should improve immediately. They can share in everything that their school and home life can offer, without worrying about blurred vision, fatigue and headaches.
However, it is the long-term benefits of Ortho-K that can make the greatest difference to your child’s life. The opportunity to slow down or even halt the progression of their myopia will be one that parents find impossible to dismiss. This is a treatment that can make a huge difference to both a child’s future health and enjoyment of life.
Dr. Millicent M. Grim, Specialist Ophthalmologist & LASIK Specialist, is the Medical Director of Gulf Eye Center in Dubai. Since 2002, Gulf Eye Center’s highly qualified ophthalmologists and optometrists/ODs have been successfully treating a wide range of eye conditions using advanced techniques. They also provide comprehensive eye care and vision restoration procedures for people of all ages.