The Myopia Control Clinic provides advanced, evidence-based optical treatments to help children from becoming so nearsighted (myopic). Children typically become myopic in their early school years, and increase in myopia until they reach early adulthood. It is during this time of rapid myopic progression that treatments offered by the Myopia Control Clinic will have the maximum impact.
Is your young child already wearing glasses? He/she is part of a growing trend. The prevalence of myopia has increased in the USA from 25% in 1971-72 to 42% in 1999-2004. That means that in the early 1970s one in four Americans were nearsighted, but that number has grown so that now almost one out of every two Americans are nearsighted.
Most people know that as their myopia increases, their prescription lenses get thicker and more unsightly. It is possible to keep new lens thinner, but at a higher cost than regular plastic lenses. What most people don’t know is that myopia of any amount increases the risk of vision-threatening eye problems in later life. Obviously, the risks are greater for more advanced myopia but we know now that even low myopia increases risk. As myopia increases the eye grows long and all of the tissues that make up the back of the eye get stretched.
When a child becomes nearsighted, the eye has grown too long. As a child’s nearsightedness increases, the retina, the delicate neural tissue in the eye that allows us to see, becomes stretched. Stretching thins the retina which increases the risk of vision-threatening eye problems later in life - including retinal tears, detachments, and degenerations. In Asian countries where myopia is at epidemic proportions, complications due to myopia are second only to cataract as the leading causes of visual impairment Tajimi Study | Shihpai Study. Myopia control is a proactive way to reduce this risk, minimize the frequency of prescription changes and keep myopia lower.
Faculty at the University of Houston College of Optometry are world leaders in myopia research, and their insight provides the foundation for the optical treatments offered by the Myopia Control Clinic at the University Eye Institute. Research at the University of Houston has shown that regular glasses and contact lenses focus images on the fovea – the most sensitive central area of the retina – resulting in clear central vision. However, regular glasses and contact lenses focus images in the periphery behind the retina. Research has conclusively shown that when the image is behind the eye, the eye is stimulated to grow long to reduce the error in focus. This is the mechanism by which myopia increases. The optical strategy to address this mechanism is to pull the peripheral imagery up to or in front of the retina. This can be accomplished with specialty glasses, specialty soft contact lenses and ortho-keratology.
Researchers at the University of Houston College of Optometry are world-leaders on the topic of myopia control. The most cutting-edge research shows that refractive error development is strongly influenced by visual experience. The mechanisms responsible for eye growth are within the eye, and act in localized areas. Current optical corrections, including regular glasses and contact lenses, place the central image at the plane of the retina and as a result central vision is clear. However, with conventional glasses and contact lenses, the peripheral image is focused behind the plane of the retina. Images focused behind the plane of the retina stimulate elongation as local mechanisms work to increase the length of the eye so that the peripheral retina captures the peripheral image. Specialty optical designs preserve clear central imagery, and pull the peripheral imagery forward onto or in front of the plane of the retina. When the peripheral image is in front of the retina, the stimulus is to stop eye growth. This, in essence, puts the breaks on myopic progression and is the strategy specialty optical designs are based on.
The Myopia Control Clinic spans both the Family Practice Service and the Cornea and Contact Lens Service at the University Eye Institute.
If your child is currently not wearing any correction or is wearing glasses they will be seen in the Family Practice Service. A comprehensive eye exam in the Family Practice Service is the first step in getting your child on the road to slowing myopic progression. When your child arrives for their comprehensive eye examination, the doctor will evaluate whether your child is a candidate for myopia control and discuss your options. Please call the Family Practice Service at 713-743-2020 and ask for an appointment with Dr. Knowles or Dr. Wensveen.
If your child is ready for contact lenses, or already wears contact lenses, they will be seen in the Cornea and Contact Lens Service where the doctor will perform a comprehensive eye examination and an evaluation of your child's existing contact lenses if indicated. The doctor will discuss specific contact lens options that would be most beneficial for your child. Even young children can independently handle and care for contact lenses. We will teach your child how to insert, remove, and properly care for their contact lenses. Call the Cornea and Contact Lens Service at 713-743-2015 and ask for an appointment with the Myopia Control Clinic.
The University of Houston is ranked as a Tier 1 research institution, and our faculty are involved in myopia control research. During the exam you or your child may be presented with opportunities to participate, if interested. You can also visit our research page to learn more about ongoing clinical studies.