TAMPA - Some doctors believe it’s becoming a public health crisis. The use of digital devices is causing what’s called digital eye strain.
Doctors say it’s leading them to diagnose more and much younger patients with myopia or nearsightedness. Myopia is permanent; however, a treatment called orthokeratology (or Ortho-K) can stop the progression and give children hope.
“If a child’s vision is changing and their vision is bad enough to where they do need to wear glasses to see the board at school then I would consider Ortho-K for them,” said Dr. Nate Bonilla-Warford with Bright Eyes Kids.
Orthokeratology does for your eyes what braces do for your teeth. And 16-year-old Jacklyn McCauley says it’s changed her life.
“I kept telling my teacher, ‘I can’t see the board! I can’t see the board!’ I was 10-years-old,” recalled McCauley.
McCauley says she only saw a blur. Her mother took her to the eye doctor and she was diagnosed at age 10 with nearsightedness. The doctor prescribed glasses.
“The day I got the glasses I went home and put them on and I was like, ‘I can see something in the backyard!’”
The glasses seemed to be working, but within two years that crystal clear vision faded. She says the more she used digital devices, required by her school, the less she could see.
“I’d go in and get a stronger prescription for glasses and I feel like after three months I’d be going back to the eye doctor saying 'I still can’t see, it’s getting worse,'” she said.
Her parents were concerned about the future of her eyesight.
“If she stays on this path, what’s it going to be like when she’s a senior in high school heading off to college?” Debra McCauley wondered.
The McCauley family turned to child vision specialist Dr. Nate Bonilla-Warford, who encouraged Jacklyn to start orthokeratology.
“The best thing you can do or try to do is prevent getting myopia in the first place. I tell patients it’s a one-way street. Once you get it, you’ve got it,” said Dr. Bonilla-Warford.
While myopia is permanent, Ortho-K can stop the need for more intense prescriptions.
“It provides clear 20/20 vision all day without glasses or daytime contacts by wearing a contact lens at night,” he explained.
McCauley walked us through her bedtime routine. She washes her hands, face, brushes her teeth and then pops in her Ortho-K lenses. She wears them through the night.
As she sleeps the Ortho-K lenses gently reshape her cornea. When she wakes up and takes them out she doesn’t need glasses or daytime contacts.
“You can instantly see everything and it’s really nice,” she said.
Dr. Bonilla-Warford showed us the orthokeratology lenses at work and says this is the solution for nearsightedness.
For more information on orthokeratology, click here.
His youngest patient is 6 years old. In other countries, there are children much younger using the Ortho-K lenses.
He explained that Ortho-K is key to start when nearsightedness develops. It will stop your vision from getting worse and it reduces the risk as you get older for developing blinding eye diseases like glaucoma and cataracts.
“Kids like it because they don’t have to wear the glasses. And they can have the freedom to see all of the things they want, but parents like it because if their vision doesn’t tend to change then they’re less worried about future problems,” he said.
Debra McCauley says it’s given hope to her family and will allow Jacklyn to make health decisions for herself when she’s old enough.
“It can halt it and it actually reversed the progression a bit, so her eyesight is better now than when he first started the treatment with her,” McCauley shared.
To learn about preventing myopia and helping children maintain their vision, click here.
Dr. Bonilla-Warford explained that through orthokeratology patients will typically see their prescription revert to what it was when they were first diagnosed.
“Oh yeah! I can see everything crystal clear right now. It’s amazing,” Jacklyn told 10News.
She says she doesn’t see a future where she won’t constantly be using a computer, phone or tablet, but she knows it doesn’t have to be the end of her vision.
To learn more about the options for children, visit: http://www.brighteyestampa.com/myopia/
After college, she might decide to get Lasik surgery or continue with Ortho-K for the rest of her life.
Dr. Bonilla-Warford doesn’t recommend patients getting Lasik until their 20s, when their eyes have finished developing, or after college when they won’t be straining them as much.
He says Lasik will help them see clearly, but it will not reduce the risk of those blinding diseases.