NaturalVue contact lenses are one of the most promising myopia control treatments to become available in Australia. But what exactly do they do and are they suitable for your child?
Once a child becomes short-sighted, their myopia will typically get worse and worse as they get older. While glasses and contact lenses can provide clear distance vision, that’s only part of the problem. Wearing glasses does not cure myopia – it only relieves the symptoms.
As myopia gets worse with age, the eyeball physically grows longer. This growth stretches the delicate tissues at the back of the eye, which can lead to all sorts of complications such as retinal detachment, macular disease, glaucoma, and early cataracts. The higher the degree of myopia, the higher the risk of permanent blindness.
It is therefore very important to develop a strategy with your optometrist to slow down this rate of worsening so you can reduce the risk of blindness and poor vision as an adult. Strategies to slow down myopia progression are referred to as myopia control.
There are several choices, depending on many factors such as your child’s age, degree of myopia, how their eyes work together and even their level of maturity.
Now, an innovative contact lens from NaturalVue offers clear vision AND the ability to slow down or completely halt the myopia from getting worse.
Why is myopia bad?
Myopia, especially high myopia (over 5 dioptres), decreases quality of life:
- correcting vision with glasses and contact lenses is expensive
- the risk of irreversible eye damage increases dramatically as the degree of myopia increases
Myopia is reaching epidemic proportions worldwide. But even in Australia, myopia now affects about one third of the population, most of them children, teens and young adults. This figure is climbing all the time and is expected to reach 55% by 2050.
Is there a way of preventing myopia?
Some factors that increase a child’s risk of becoming short-sighted include:
- family history (one or both parents are short-sighted)
- race (East Asian descent)
- low amounts of time spent outdoors playing (less than 2 hours per day)
- higher amounts of time spent indoors reading or doing other close-work
The most significant environmental changes to reduce the risk of developing myopia are increasing outdoor play time and reducing the amount of near work.
Is your child at risk?
The eyes of babies and young children actually start out with hyperopia (or long-sightedness). This gradually reduces as the eyes develop, so that they ideally end up with perfect distance vision.
If a child is less long-sighted than is expected for their age, they are at a much higher risk of becoming short-sighted in the future.
Having a child’s eyes tested by an optometrist before they start school will give a good indication of their future risk of developing myopia.
What to do once a child is already myopic
An eye examination with an optometrist should involve a discussion of all the myopia reduction treatments currently available in Australia. It should also include a recommendation for which ones will be more effective for each individual child.
Why is NaturalVue better than other contact lenses for myopia?
While regular soft contact lenses can give clear distance vision, they do nothing to slow or halt the worsening of the myopia.
Unlike a regular contact lens, the NaturalVue lens is a multifocal lens. These lenses were originally developed to help older people read without reading glasses.
Many studies have shown that children who wear a multifocal contact lens have significantly less worsening of their myopia compared to those who wear a regular contact lens. The initial research on the NaturalVue lens specifically is showing very promising results for myopia. (Ref. 1)
How do multifocal contact lenses reduce myopia progression?
No-one is 100% sure about how these types of lenses work to reduce myopia. It is likely that the plus powers within the contact lens create a special type of blur at the retina (the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye). This then sends a signal to the brain to stop the eye from growing and becoming more myopic.
How does NaturalVue compare to Ortho-k?
NaturalVue lenses are daily disposable soft contact lenses which are worn during the day, and removed and thrown away at night. Orthokeratology or ortho-k lenses are worn during sleep and removed in the morning.
There are no studies at the moment which directly compare all the different myopia treatment methods to each other. Multifocal soft contact lenses like NaturalVue are arguably better than ortho-k for low degrees of myopia (under -2.00). This is because ortho-k lenses don’t cause enough blur signal to the brain for low amounts of myopia.
I’m not sure my child should be wearing contact lenses...
Are there other options for myopia control? Many parents express concern about the safety of their kids eyes in contact lenses. The good news is that young children are statistically safer wearing contact lenses compared to older teens and young adults.
The maturity level of the child, as well as their motivation to wear contact lenses, are generally more important considerations. There are certainly other options for myopia control, however they don’t seem to be as effective as contact lenses for slowing down myopia. Other options include atropine eye drops and bifocal glasses.
Are you being proactive about preventing myopia in your child? Talk to the experts. Call The Eye Practice on (02) 9290 1899 or make an appointment online today.
(1) Cooper, Jeffrey, et al. "Case series analysis of myopic progression control with a Unique extended depth of focus multifocal contact lens." Eye & contact lens 44.5 (2018): e16-e24