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Can Myopia Be Reversed?

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Happy child being tested for myopia with her parents beside her

Something often asked by patients is whether we can reverse myopia. It’s an understandable question since nearly 30% of the Canadian population is myopic.

The short answer is no; optometrists cannot completely reverse myopia. However, with proper myopia management in children, we can often control it and slow its progression. 

Myopia treatment begins with understanding why your eye is the way it is. 

What Is Myopia?

Myopia, also known as nearsightedness, is a common refractive error that causes distant objects to appear blurry. This can occur in one of two ways:

  • The eye’s axial length (front to back) is too long 
  • The cornea is too curved.

Both of these factors tend to present in children and teens, and may progressively worsen before stabilizing around 30 years of age.

To create clear vision, the cornea and lens work together to focus light on the retina, a layer of photoreactive cells at the back of the eye. In a myopic eye, distant light instead focuses in front of the retina. As a result, people with myopia have difficulty seeing objects in the distance but can see nearby objects clearly.

What Causes Myopia?

Genetics and environmental factors can both play a role in the development of myopia. For example, if one or both parents have myopia, their children are more likely to develop it. Environmental factors that seem to promote myopia include spending too much time on near work (such as reading or using a computer) and not spending enough time outdoors.

While glasses or contact lenses can correct blurry vision from myopia, myopia management can slow its progression.

What Happens if Myopia Progresses?

High amounts of myopia can lead to complications later in life, such as:

  • Retinal detachments
  • Macular degeneration
  • Glaucoma

People with high myopia are also sometimes not candidates for laser eye surgery, as too much corneal reshaping would be required to correct the refractive error.

How Is Myopia Assessed?

Once your child has been diagnosed with myopia through a comprehensive eye exam, an optometrist can assess the specific features of their myopia.

Advanced assessment tools like MYAH allow your optometrist to get accurate axial length, cornea, and pupil measurements. These measurements allow optometrists to create a myopia management strategy that is as effective as possible. 

Since childhood myopia usually progresses, it’s vital to continue monitoring its development and adapt management strategies to ensure they stay as effective as possible. 

Young woman using atropine eye drops to manage her myopia

Myopia Management

Myopia treatment plans are personalized to each child’s unique vision needs.

Atropine Eye Drops

Atropine is a medication that dilates the pupil and relaxes the focusing muscles in the eye. It’s similar to the drops used in some eye examinations to provide your optometrist with a clearer view of the interior of the eye. In low doses, studies have shown its effectiveness in slowing down myopia progression in children.

This treatment may be offered with other strategies and is ideal for children who are too young to wear corrective lenses.

Specialty Eyeglasses

Single-vision eyeglasses can correct myopia and allow children to see clearly, but they don’t slow myopia’s progression. Myopic defocusing lenses, such as MiYOSMART lenses, have a ring-shaped treatment area that defocuses light just in front of the peripheral retina.

Intentionally defocusing peripheral light sends signals to the eyes to slow axial length growth.

Multifocal Contact Lenses

Multifocal contact lenses have different focusing zones for different distances. Unlike eyeglass lenses that use one defocusing ring, MiSight contact lenses use concentric rings of defocus. The centre corrects myopia, while the outer rings focus light in front of the retina. Studies show that children’s eyes can be cued to stop growing by purposely focusing light in front of the retina.

Options for Myopic Adults

It’s generally not possible to reverse myopia once it has developed. Fortunately, myopia tends to stabilize in adulthood and optometrists have several ways of correcting the blurry distance vision it causes.

Corrective Lenses

For adults with myopia, glasses or contact lenses are the most common methods of correcting the condition.

Depending on the severity of your myopia, an optometrist may prescribe glasses for full-time wear or for specific activities such as driving. Contact lenses may also be an option, depending on your preferences, lifestyle, and the health of your eyes, and require a contact lens eye exam and fitting for optimal results and safe use.

Laser Eye Surgery

Laser eye surgery, such as LASIK, PRK, or SMILE, is a surgical option for correcting myopia in adults. During the procedure, a surgeon uses a laser to reshape the cornea, changing how light enters the eye and correcting the refractive error.

While laser eye surgery can be an effective solution for myopia, not everyone is an appropriate candidate. Factors such as the degree of myopia, cornea thickness, and overall eye health are considerations before determining if laser eye surgery is a suitable option.

Laser eye surgery doesn’t guarantee 20/20 vision, and some people might still require corrective lenses at certain distances. A laser eye surgery consultation can help determine if surgical vision correction is a viable option for you.

Myopia Care in Your Community

We can’t reverse myopia, making early intervention all the more important. If you have any concerns about your child’s vision, contact our friendly team at Vista Eyecare for a thorough eye exam.

dr darren schamber

Written by Dr. Darren Schamber

Originally from Cold Lake, AB, Dr. Schamber received his Doctor of Optometry degree with honours from the University of Waterloo in 1997, after which he completed a residency in ocular disease and surgical co-management at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami. He spent one year as a staff optometrist at The Eye Institute in New Port Richey, FL, before returning to Canada to open Vista Eyecare in 2003.

Dr. Schamber has lectured for the Canadian Diabetes Association regarding the effects of diabetes on the eye, to family physicians on emergency eye care, and to ophthalmology residents about contact lens fitting and assessment.

He was the chair of the Saskatchewan Association of Optometrists’ Continuing Education Committee for nearly 10 years and has also served on its Practice Appraisal Committee. Dr. Schamber was recognized by Bausch & Lomb for excellence in the field of contact lenses and now maintains a special interest in ocular disease and surgical co-management.

Dr. Schamber is married to Dr. Nadia Lypka, also an optometrist in Saskatoon, and has two sons, Andrew and Luke. He likes soccer, snowboarding, water sports, and coffee. When not at the office, he can often be found at the SaskTel Sports Centre or the Saskatoon Field House watching his boys’ activities.

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