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Myopia is the most common eye condition worldwide and is associated with increased eye health complications. Recent research has resulted in myopia control treatments to reduce the risk of higher levels of short-sightedness.

What is myopia?

Myopia, also known as “short-sightedness” or “near-sightedness”, is the most common eye condition. It occurs when light focuses in front of the retina (the tissue at the back of the eye), causing blurry long-distance vision.

The prevalence of myopia is increasing at alarming rates around the world. It is predicted that by 2050 almost 50% of the world’s population will be myopic.

Myopia is an eye health issue every parent should be aware of. All levels of short-sightedness are associated with an increased risk of ocular health complications later in life, such as retinal detachment, myopic macular degeneration, glaucoma or cataracts. The higher degree of myopia, the higher the risk.

Myopia requires corrective lenses to achieve clear vision. However, solving myopia simply with standard glasses is no longer the case.

What causes myopia?

Myopia occurs when the eyeball grows too quickly. The condition can be particularly problematic for younger children as their eyes are growing at a faster rate. Myopia can continue throughout adulthood due to increased close work resulting in fatigued eye focusing muscles. Environmental factors and genetics are also a factor.

There are a number of risk-factors for developing myopia:

  • Genetics: a child with one or two short-sighted parents can have a much higher risk of developing myopia.
  • Ethnicity: children with Asian ethnicity have higher rates of myopia.
  • Spending more time on close work such as reading, playing computer games, drawing and tablets.
  • Lack of time spent outdoors.
  • Incorrect glasses or having no glasses when they are needed can actually lead to an increase in myopia.

What can be done about it?

With traditional glasses and contact lenses, light is focused on the retina centrally to provide clear vision. However the peripheral (off-center) light rays focus behind the retina which stimulates the eye to grow longer, thus increasing myopia and requiring stronger glasses.

Research has resulted in multiple methods of vision correction options specifically designed to slow myopia progression. It is important treatment is initiated as early as possible.

Methods of myopia control treatment

Contact lenses

Specialty soft contact lenses and orthokeratology contact lenses are currently the most effective myopia control treatment. These specialty lenses provide clear central vision and defocus to the peripheral retina. This is thought to signal to the eye that it does not need to grow longer, thus slowing down the progression of myopia.

Recent evidence has shown that dual-focus (or multifocal) soft contact lenses can show up to a 50 per cent reduction in myopia progression rates and eye growth compared to standard soft contact lenses.

Orthokeratology or “Ortho-K” involves custom-designed rigid contact lenses that are worn overnight while sleeping in order to gently reshape the cornea. Please note that we do not currently offer this treatment at Barry & Sargent Optometrists.

Atropine eye drops

Low-dose atropine eye drops have been shown to successfully reduce myopia progression. This is a safe treatment and without noticeable side-effects. The exact mechanism is still being studied, but it is thought to target receptors at the back of the eye to stop the eye elongating. These eye drops can only be prescribed by therapeutically qualified optometrists and may be used in combination with other treatment modalities.

Specialty spectacle lenses

Specialty spectacle lenses are more effective at slowing myopia than regular spectacles. However current research shows they are not as effective as current myopia control contact lenses. These spectacle lenses may benefit children who show problems with eye teaming or focusing.

Other treatments

Spending more time outdoors in natural light may help to delay myopia onset or slow progression. Children should be encouraged to spend at least two hours per day in outdoor activity (with UV protection).

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