Dr. Laura's Blog

Don’t Lose Sight of Alternative Vision Therapies

By Dr. Laura Vasilakos

If numbers tell the tale, consider this – the prevalence of myopia (nearsightedness) has soared in this country over the past 50 years, rising from 25% to now nearly 42%. The number of children who have difficulty seeing far away objects is projected to continue to increase at a rapid rate.

Factors that contribute to these fast-increasing numbers have been deliberated, with several studies pointing to heredity, a lack of outdoor time, and an abundance of screen-time linked to a heightened risk of developing myopia. Furthermore, it has been documented that children who spend more than seven hours a week using computers and mobile video games triple their risk for myopia.

While prescription glasses, contact lenses, and even surgical procedures such as LASIK have long been considered standard to treating myopia and other vision problems, lesser known therapies do exist, such as orthokeratology.

Also known as Ortho-K, orthokeratology is a non-surgical therapy that eliminates the need for glasses or contact lenses and slows down the progression of nearsightedness. Not to get too technical, but the cornea is a clear dome-shaped window made of flexible tissue, located in front of the eye. It focuses light into the retina and is responsible for a majority of the eye’s ability to focus. Ortho-K use specially designed contact lenses to reshape the cornea during sleep. The overnight lenses are rigid and gas permeable and allow oxygen to come through. The contact lenses are then removed in the morning, but the cornea remains flattened for a period of time during the day.

Ortho-K has proven to be effective in stalling the progression of myopia. It is also a good option for children, teens, and adults who are active in sports but have difficulty participating if they wear eyeglasses.

Ready for a few more “eye opening” statistics? One out of four children struggle with reading and learning due to undiagnosed visions problems, and it is estimated that more than 60% of so-called problem learners are similarly challenged with undiagnosed vision issues. Considering that 80% of classroom learning is visually-based these numbers are alarming.

Most children have no idea how they are supposed to see, and rarely say anything if their eyes are bothering them, therefore it’s important to know the signs that a vision problem is interfering with a child’s ability to read and learn. Tiring quickly while reading, frequent loss of place while reading, confusing similar looking words, headaches, dizziness, squinting, itching eyes are a few telltale signs that a child is struggling with impaired vision.

Vision therapy has proven to be a valuable tool to improve vision, and related skills. Much like physical therapy, vision therapy treats the eyes and visual system. Research has shown that vision therapy can be instrumental in helping increase visual attention, making learning to read easier. Just as a physical therapist might use treadmills or weights, a vision therapist relies on prisms, eye patches, filtered lenses, and computerized systems to conduct therapy sessions.

Interactive computer programs offer a proven effective method of delivering vision therapy, as the “fun” nature of the programs keeps children motivated to work, resulting in quicker and better progress and outcomes.

Ultimately, there is a difference between seeing letters on the eye chart and processing visual information. The ability to see clearly – or having 20/20 vision – is just one component to the ability to read and learn easily. Every child should have the opportunity to develop the visual skills critical to reading and academic success without having to resort to stronger and stronger prescriptions for glasses and daytime contact lenses.

About Family Eyecare Solutions

Family Eyecare Solutions is an optometry practice specializing in vision therapy, myopia control, and post-concussion vision syndrome that was founded by Development Optometrist Laura Vasilakos, OD, FCOVD in 2018.  Located at 51 Mill Street, Building E, Suite 21 B, in Hanover, Massachusetts, Family Eyecare Solutions serves patients from the surrounding areas of Randolph, Stoughton, Marshfield, Canton, Weymouth, Rockland, Sharon, Abington, Hingham, Hanover, Norwell, Cohasset, Pembroke, Plymouth, Quincy, and Kingston.  For more information, please call 781-829-9400, email info@familyeyecaresolutions.com, or visit www.familyeyecaresolutions.com.