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How to control myopia: Atropine eye drops, orthokeratology and more

young girl wearing eyeglasses for myopia control

"Myopia control" is the term used to describe specific treatments to slow the progression of short sightedness in children.

Myopia control measures typically are prescribed by an optician (an optometrist or an ophthalmologist).

There are three primary categories of myopia control treatments in the UK: multifocal contact lenses, multifocal spectacles and orthokeratology (ortho-k). 

Myopia control is important because it may help reduce the risk of vision-threatening complications associated with high myopia later in life —including glaucomacataractsretinal detachment and even blindness.

Multifocal contact lenses

Multifocal contact lenses are primarily designed to provide clear vision at all distances for people who have refractive errors (shortsightedness, long sightedness and/or astigmatism) and also are experiencing the normal age-related loss of near focusing ability called presbyopia.

But multifocal contact lenses also can help slow the progression of myopia in some children. One recent two-year study found that shortsighted children who wore multifocal lenses on a daily basis had a 50 percent reduction in the progression of their myopia when compared with similarly shortsighted children who wore regular soft contact lenses for the same period. 

Multifocal spectacles

Multifocal spectacles lenses work similarly to multifocal contact lenses to help wearers with presbyopia see clearly at all distances. They also have been shown to slow the progression of shortsightedness in children.

Most studies that have evaluated the use of multifocal spectacles for myopia control in children have found the glasses had only a mild slowing effect. However, one three-year study of Chinese-Canadian children with progressive myopia found that wearing multifocal spectacles slowed the worsening of shortsightedness by 51 percent (compared with matched children who wore regular spectacles for myopia correction).

Orthokeratology (ortho-k)

Also known as "corneal reshaping lenses", ortho-k contact lenses are specially designed gas permeable contacts that are worn only at night during sleep. In the morning, the lenses are removed and the temporary correction is good enough so corrective lenses are not needed during the day. 

One two-year study of shortsighted Chinese children (ages 6 to 10) found that ortho-k contact lenses reduced lengthening of the eyeball (a key factor in myopia progression) by 43 percent compared with matched children who wore regular spectacles for myopia correction during the study period. 

To learn more about shortsightedness and myopia control, schedule an eye exam with an eye doctor near you.

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