The (NIH) National Eye Institute is reporting their study’s findings that myopia progression (nearsightedness) in children is slowed with the use of multifocal contact lenses. Myopia increases the risk of cataracts, glaucoma and retinal detachment later in life. Investigators of the Bifocal Lenses In Nearsighted Kids (BLINK) study published the results August 11 in the Journal of the American Medical Association,
Children wearing multifocal contact lenses had slower progression of their myopia, according to results from a clinical trial funded by the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. The findings support an option for controlling the condition, also called nearsightedness, which increases the risk of cataracts, glaucoma and retinal detachment later in life.
The Not-so-Good News
Myopia has surged in prevalence over the past five decades. In 1971, 25% of Americans were myopic, compared to 33% in 2004. By 2050, the worldwide prevalence of myopia is projected to be 54%, and the prevalence of high myopia, the most severe form, is projected to increase to 10%. High myopia means that a person’s vision requires at least -5.00 diopters, the unit of focusing power correction required to optimize distance vision.
Myopia occurs when a child’s developing eyes grow too long from front to back. Instead of focusing images on the retina — the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye — images of distant objects are focused at a point in front of the retina. People with myopia have good near vision but poor distance vision. Single vision prescription glasses and contact lenses are used to correct myopic vision but fail to treat the underlying problem.
The Really Good News
The good news is that children as young as 7 achieved optimal visual acuity and got used to wearing multifocal lenses much the way they would a single vision contact lens.
Shaped like a bullseye, the soft multifocal contact lenses have two basic portions for focusing light. The center portion of the lens corrects nearsightedness so that distance vision is clear, and it focuses light directly on the retina. The outer portion of the lens adds focusing power to bring the peripheral light rays into focus in front of the retina. Animal studies show that bringing light to focus in front of the retina cues the eye to slow growth. The higher the power added, the further in front of the retina it focuses peripheral light.
Multifocal Contact Lens Study
After three years, children in the high-add multifocal contact lens group had the slowest progression of their myopia. According to principal investigator, Donald O. Mutti, O.D., Ph.D., the E.F. Wildermuth Foundation professor of optometry at Ohio State,
There is a clear benefit from multifocal lenses at three years, but further study is needed to determine the ideal duration for wearing the lenses. Researchers will need determine how permanent the prevention of myopia progression will be once children stop wearing the multifocal lenses,” said Lisa A. Jones-Jordan, Ph.D., principal investigator of the Data Coordinating Center at the Ohio State University. A follow-up study is underway to see if the benefits hold among children in this study when they go off treatment.
“We also need more information about the exact nature of the visual signals that slow eye growth. If we understood that process better, perhaps we could maximize it to have an even stronger treatment effect,
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