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New Promising Treatments for Myopia in Children: Studying the Eye

First Posted: Oct 30, 2013 12:07 PM EDT

Myopia, also known as progressive nearsightedness, is spreading across the country. Now, though, scientists have taken a closer look at this eye condition. While myopia may be spreading, there's also new ways to prevent and treat this condition in young patients and may actually help halt its progression.

Myopia is the eye condition that makes it difficult for patients to see objects at a distance. It's a problem that's common in children and may gradually worsen as they grow. While myopia can be treated with glasses or contact lenses, though, actually halting its progression is a bit more difficult. That's why researchers conducted studies that resulted in twenty different papers that reveal a bit more about this particular condition.

One of the most important findings was that lenses could potentially help younger patients and halt the spread of myopia. In order to examine myopia in children, the researchers randomly assigned 40 patients aged eight to 11 years to treatment with multifocal contact lenses or conventional, single-focus contact lenses. Multifocal contact lenses work by providing multiple areas of focus: one for near vision and one for distance vision. The general idea is that providing multiple areas of focus can influence growth of the eye and the degree of nearsightedness.

After two years, the children's sight was tested. The researchers found that children who wore multifocal contact lenses had about half as much progression in myopia when compared to those wearing single-focus lenses. Multifocal lenses were also associated with about a 30 percent reduction in a key measure of eye growth, the lengthening of the eye. This particular growth is responsible for the myopia.

In addition to this study, the researchers have found that myopia isn't necessarily "hardwired" into genes. Instead, environmental factors play a huge role when it comes to its spread. For example, children who spend less time outdoors are at higher risk.

"This feature issue represents a diverse collection of work that follow the many threads that make up modern myopia research," wrote Donald O. Mutti and colleagues in a guest editorial.

The findings are published in Optometry and Vision Science.

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