Putting the Brakes on Myopia

For many years researchers and optometrists have searched for ways to arrest or slow the development of myopia (shortsightedness). Although it can occur at an early age, the condition is more common in the teens. Patients are often concerned that wearing corrective spectacles will lead to a further deterioration in vision.

Numerous attempts, including eye exercises and the use of bifocal or multifocal spectacle lenses, have been made to reduce the progression of myopia. However, none of these techniques has proved successful.

A breakthrough was achieved by Earl Smith and his colleagues at the University of Houston while conducting experiments on monkeys. They found that by controlling the focus of peripheral (side) vision they were able to significantly reduce the rate of progression of myopia. This avoided the need to constantly strengthen the spectacle lenses.

The principle has been applied in experiments on humans conducted in Hong Kong, the USA and at Australia’s University of New South Wales by using a technique called Orthokeratology. It involves wearing a specially designed contact lens during sleep which moulds the front of the eye in much the same way that a dental retainer is used for teeth. This allows for clear vision during the day without the use of contact lenses or spectacles.

As this technique also adjusts the peripheral focus, it has the very significant additional benefit of reducing or arresting the progression of shortsightedness in a significant number of people up to the age of about twenty.