Myopia (more commonly known as nearsightedness) has been well understood by eye care professionals for as long as glasses have been prescribed. However, in recent years the conversation around how we should manage myopia has become somewhat of a hot topic – and for good reason! Rates of myopia in Kelowna, and in general around the world, have been steadily rising at an alarming rate, especially in younger patients.
Simply defined, myopia is a condition in which distant objects appear blurrier than closer ones. This definition may be complicated by certain factors like the degree of myopia, the level of astigmatism present (if any), and your eye’s focusing power (heavily dependant on age). Based on these factors, it is possible that for some, close objects may also be blurry despite the fact that they are nearsighted. When light enters the eye, it becomes focused to a single point on our retina. The degree to which this point focuses perfectly on the retina is what determines the level of clarity or “sharpness” of our vision. In myopic eyes, light is focused to a point that lies in front of the retina, leaving an unfocused or blurry image unless this is “corrected” with glasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgeries such as LASIK.
So, if we can correct this fairly easily, then why all the buzz about myopia? More importantly, why is there a sudden need to “control” levels of myopia when it’s been around for so long? These are fantastic questions that really come down to two main answers:
- Rates of myopia are increasing at an unprecedented rate that cannot be explained by genetics alone
- Myopia is not just a visual concern – it significantly increases the risk for serious eye disease throughout life
To put things in perspective, by 2050, experts predict that half of the world’s population (five billion people) will be myopic, with nearly one billion people at risk of myopia related eye disease. A recent study of Canadian children found that 30% of our students between the ages of 11 and 13 are now myopic. Since myopia is typically progressive, we’re now well aware that the earlier myopia develops in children, the higher their levels tend to be in adulthood. We now know for certain that these higher levels of myopia (even if “corrected” by surgeries like LASIK) are strongly linked to the development of cataracts, retinal detachment and damage to the macula leading to vision impairment later in life.
At our downtown Kelowna eye care clinic, we believe proper nutrition and lifestyle habits are the foundation of eye health and development. As such, optimizing nutrition and lifestyle factors that promote eye health are of paramount importance when it comes to preventing or minimizing nearsightedness, especially in children. For children at risk of developing nearsightedness (for example, having one or more nearsighted parent) studies show that getting plenty of time outdoors is potentially the most crucial factor in the prevention of nearsightedness. Although there’s no shortage of outdoor activities here in the beautiful Okanagan, our modern world is becoming increasingly indoor & near-oriented, so whether nearsighted or not we can likely all benefit from a little reminder! Although no clear link has been made between diet and development of myopia thus far, we also recommend a low sugar and processed food diet that is instead rich in whole foods, colourful fruits & vegetables, high omega 3 content foods, nuts, seeds and high quality protein sources. Although we don’t recommend one particular diet for everyone, this tends to align itself with the well studied Mediterranean diet. Eating whole foods in this way works to minimize inflammation, optimize gut health, and keep blood sugar levels as stable as possible throughout the day. After addressing nutrition and lifestyle recommendations, the next step for youth with progressing nearsightedness is a Myopia Control Assessment. Our Myopia Control Assessments are now being offered to determine and discuss the potential benefits of the evidence-based options for slowing down the progression of your child’s myopia and reducing their risk of associated eye disease later in life.
After a thorough Vision Wellness Assessment, a Myopia Control Assessment is often recommended for young nearsighted patients. The advantage of this specific assessment is to evaluate and discuss the most effective strategy to “control”, or minimize the progression of myopia in the future. Although we cannot stop the nearsighted progression, evidence shows that we can often achieve a 20-60% reduction, which can have profound implications in reducing the risk of eye disease later in life. The strategies available to achieve these results range from fitting patients in certain types of contact lenses, prescribing glasses with specialized high-quality lenses, and/or prescribing the use of an eye drop once a night at bedtime.
Given the serious risks associated with increasing rates of myopia, Inspired Eyes Optometry offers several of the latest approaches to slow down the progression of myopia at our modern downtown Kelowna eye care clinic.
Have questions or about this article? Contact your local Kelowna Optometrist, Dr. Danny Walker.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Danny Walker hails from Mississauga, Ontario, and has been practicing Optometry in the Okanagan for the past three years. Dr. Walker completed both his Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Optometry degrees at the University of Waterloo, graduating in 2012. At Inspired Eyes Optometry, Dr. Walker enjoys being able to provide his patients with thorough examinations and personalized eye care. He has a special interest in protecting and maintaining optimal visual wellness through a variety of factors that include lifestyle and nutrition.
Dr. Walker is available for morning, daytime, evening and Saturday appointments at Inspired Eyes Creative Eyewear & Optometry. Call (250) 862-5900 or Book Online.