Imagine waking up unable to see anything more than a few inches from your face and knowing that is the best your vision will ever be. Wouldn’t that be frightening and debilitating? If there had been treatments available to slow your vision loss, wouldn’t you have wanted to have known about them?

As a parent, if your child were at risk for blindness due to glaucoma, cataracts, maculopathy or retinal detachment later in life, wouldn’t you want your pediatrician, family practitioner, ophthalmologist or optometrist to share information with you regarding treatment approaches and lifestyle choices that could help preserve your child’s vision?

This might sound a bit dramatic, but myopia is a highly prevalent and silent disease occurring during a child’s eye development that can lead to a lifetime of poor vision. The Brien Holden Vision Institute estimates that half the world’s population could have myopia by 2050 and that 1 billion could develop high myopia, placing them at the greatest risk for the most devastating consequences related to this disease (glaucoma, cataracts, myopic maculopathy and retinal detachment). The time to act is now.

Most of us are born hyperopic or farsighted, and as our eyes grow during normal development we become emmetropic and without significant refractive error. During this critical period of eye development, when we are progressing as young children and adolescents, with myopia something goes wrong. The eye grows disproportionately too long, the axial length is extended and myopia occurs.

There are many theories regarding the causes, but most likely a combination of genetic predispositions and environmental factors adversely affect emmetropization.

The need to intervene during this critical period drives the importance and urgency to slow or stop myopia progression. Myopia progression is irreversible, so when this treatment window closes, the higher risk of vision loss remains for life.

Some actions and interventions can be started today! Early detection and ongoing monitoring are key. Limiting screen time, spending more time outdoors and reducing near visual work are also very important. There are also other available treatment options such as orthokeratology or the MiSight 1 day soft contact lens and many other device and pharmaceutical options in development.

So much good can result from myopia management, and many lives can be improved if successful. We want our patients to understand this disease, its potential consequences and the interventions available to help children before the treatment window closes.

(Credit to: Raul A. Trillo, MD, MBA 3/1/2020)