Overnight contact lenses greatly helping young myopia sufferers

Vision impairment is a growing concern among the young of UK. For every five children aged five to 15 years, one needs vision correction. It’s one in three kids between the ages of 16 to 19, that suffer from the same problem.

The number of short-sighted children today has dramatically risen from three decades ago. And parents like Rachael, mother to Erin, worry that their children may have to be taking increasing dosages of medication to correct vision impairment.

However, a new study has found that a certain kind of overnight contact lenses, worn only at night, have actually slowed the development of myopia (short-sightedness) among children, especially those 7 to 8 years old.

Ages six to eighteen are the principle years for the development of myopia and it progresses at an average of 0.5 dioptres per year. However a quarter of parents surveyed have never taken their child for a sight test.

While myopia can be corrected with glasses they do not stop its progression. High myopia doubles the risk of serious eye problems such as glaucoma and retinal detachment – time bombs for the future.

There is a growing body of scientific literature supporting the use of overnight contact lenses to correct eyesight. A recent study found that not only did they slow down myopia but also suggested that they would benefit to 7 to 8 year-olds most.

The lenses, which are shaped like an upside down saucer, are worn while sleeping. They gently mould the cornea at a microscopic level. The area over the pupil is flattened so that images focus on the retina correcting the prescription. When the lenses are removed in the morning, glasses are not needed to see during the day.

Myopia, caused by the elongation of the eye from front to back (axial length) is more acute in child- hood. It is now widely believed that eye elongation is triggered by blur in the periphery of the retina.

As well as flattening the centre of the eye the lenses also create a circular raised ring around the edge of the pupil resulting in a “plus prescription”. This brings the peripheral blur into focus and is the secret to how the lenses halt or slow the progression of myopia.

At the end of the two-year study the rate of fast myopia progression – greater than 1 dioptre per year (4 lines on an eye-chart), was 65% amongst 7-8 years olds and 13% for 9- and 10-year-olds in those wearing glasses and only 20% and 9 % respectively in those wearing overnight contact lenses along with a halving of eye elongation.

One such child to benefit from myopia control using overnight lenses is Erin Craddock, who has worn glasses since the age of two. Erin’s prescription was increasing at over 1.00D per annum and by the age of 8 had risen to -7 dioptres. Erin’s mother Rachael, whose prescription is -10 dioptres said “I didn’t want her to get to eighteen with goodness knows how high a prescription”.

Almost two years on and Erin’s prescription is still stable at -7 dioptres and her eyesight spot on. “ I really like how these lenses have made me see again instead of wearing glasses, it makes your life a lot easier” concludes Erin.

Geoff Wilson, The Contact Lens Practice, Birmingham who treated Erin shares his children’s eye health top tips:

• Children should have their eyes checked before starting school at three or four years old.
• Then every six months if both parents are myopic otherwise every 2 years from 6 onwards.
• Children as young as 6 can wear contact lenses.
• Young children may not realise they have blurred vision. If your child frowns, squints a lot or has trouble seeing the TV, he or she should be assessed by an Optician.
• Make sure screen time does not take over from other educational activities such as outdoor play, art, books and music. All these activities allow children to develop their vision.