Myopia or near-sightedness is one of the most prevalent eye diseases around the world, but recent studies show that Asian children are more likely to have myopia.
"We’re beginning to realize that in some countries [in Asia], something like 90-95% of all children are actually becoming myopic or near-sighted," said Dr. Lyndon Jones, Director of Center for Contact Lens Research.
Myopia, Jones explained, is when the distance from the cornea to the retina becomes too long. Children, he said, are born with eyes that are smaller, and when they grow up their eyes should expand to the right length. They develop myopia when their eyes grow too fast.
Jones said although most of these cases are due to genetics, Asian children also tend to work with their eyes too close to the object.
"If you become very myopic, your chance of developing eye disease in later life is much greater. It’s really important that we prevent that eye growth in early life," he added.
Soft and rigid contact lenses, he said, are helpful in controlling the way the light travels through the eyes.
"We have very good results from animal models that show that if we can control the way light hits the outside of the eye, the periphery of the retina, then we can slow that elongation of the eye," he said.
For this, he urges that contact lenses be used as treatment rather than spectacles because contact lenses move with the movement of the eye.
Contact lenses as treatment should be implemented among children of ages five to seven. Jones said studies show that kids actually are much more diligent in cleaning and wearing contact lenses than many adults.
Breakthrough gas-permeated rigid lenses called Orthokeratology manipulates the shape of your cornea and are suited for children's use.
Although it is best that myopia be decelerated starting from a young age, Orthokeratology is also a viable option for adults.
Jones also emphasized that regular visits to the optometrist or ophthalmologist is still necessary even though you think you can see clearly.
Jones is in the Philippines to speak to fellow practitioners in the National Convention of Optometric Association of the Philippines.