By Michael Hutton
Contact lenses for children which are custom-designed to not only correct shortsight but also stop it getting any worse could become a hugely important new treatment in the battle against rapidly rising levels of myopia, the technical term for shortsight. The way these new contact lenses work is known as ‘orthokeratology' or ‘ortho-k' and their potential importance has been highlighted by a new study from the University of Bristol which highlights how children today spend much less time outdoors in natural light, a factor believed to be an important determinant of how children develop myopia. Given that myopia now affects around one-third of the UK population and is associated with greater risk of serious eye health issues in later life such as glaucoma, the quest to find effective treatments assumes even greater importance.
Drs Cathy Williams (Bristol) and Jez Guggenheim (Cardiff) and their colleagues at the University of Bristol have followed the occurrence of short-sightedness in over 7,000 boys and girls in the ‘Children Of The 90s' study at ages 7, 10, 11, 12 and 15 and compared it to the amount of time they spent outside at age 9 and how much physical activity they did at age 11. The researchers found that children who spent more time outdoors at age 8-9 were only about half as likely to become short-sighted by the age of 15. However, for those who were identified as being short-sighted, conventional treatments such as glasses and daytime contact lenses would not prevent their shortsight from continuing to worsen. Only the new ortho-k contact lenses for children have been shown by research to hold prescriptions stable.
Dr Williams said: "There is now a need to carry out further studies investigating how much time outside is needed to protect against short-sightedness, what age the protective effect of spending time outside is most marked and how the protective effect actually works, so that we can try and reduce the number of children who become short-sighted." Dr Peter Allen from the College of Optometrists said: "This research is particularly exciting because it's the first to identify that simply spending time outside reduces the risk of becoming short sighted." So time spent outdoors is clearly very important for children's eye health but equally for those who are diagnosed with myopia, providing them with ortho-k contact lenses for children at the earliest possible stage will ensure their eyesight does not continue to deteriorate.
Check if your child is suitable for overnight ortho-k corrective contact lenses for children.