The digital age has not been kind to our eyesight.
Not only do American adults now spend nearly 7 hours a day staring at a computer for work, but a rising number of kids and teens are using computers and tablets daily at school—and the trend continues outside of the office and classroom as well.
According to one study, a whopping 31% of U.S. adults say they are online "almost constantly," using their smartphones and other internet-connected devices to browse social media sites, search for information, shop, watch videos, and more. The same goes for kids and teens, who devote the majority of their leisure time to screen-related activities.
Though not the only culprit, increased screen time has been a contributing risk factor to the alarming rise in myopia cases nationwide, prompting ophthalmic professionals across the country to rethink their myopia management strategies in an effort to improve patient outcomes.
What is myopia?
Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a condition that occurs when the shape of the eye causes light rays to bend the wrong way, making far-away objects seem fuzzy or blurry (otherwise known as a refractive error). Here in the United States, over 40% of the population is affected by myopia, which is currently the leading cause of moderate to severe vision impairment.
Steps to myopia management success
As myopia cases in the United States continue to rise, especially among children, vision correction is no longer enough; eye care professionals must embrace the importance of myopia management. Early detection and ongoing observation of the condition can help to slow its progression and safeguard healthy vision later in life. Below are five important steps to build out your myopia management strategy.
1. Educate yourself.
Before you can become a trusted source of information for your patients, you need to put in the work to educate yourself. Take the time to read medical journals, connect with your colleagues, attend industry conferences, take courses, and research the latest technological advancements. The more you know about current practices in myopia management, the better equipped you will be to help your patients.
2. Educate your patients.
As with any health condition that may worsen over time, communicating with your patients early and often about myopia is essential to their long-term vision health. Knowing the potential risks associated with leaving myopia untreated will help them better understand the condition and its impact on healthy eyesight. In addition, getting to know their vision and lifestyle habits will help you work together to develop a treatment plan to slow myopia progression; this is especially important for your pediatric patients.
3. Develop a myopia management program.
While your myopia patients will have different needs and their treatment plans and options will vary, it is important to have a strong foundation in place for managing their care. This may include preparing a packet of educational materials, creating a place on your website where patients can learn more about myopia, and developing an evaluation schedule to ensure patients return for regular assessments so you can monitor progression.
4. Create and share resources.
We touched on this briefly in the previous steps, but an effective myopia management strategy should include a resource library of learning materials (such as the ones found here and here) that can be easily distributed and shared with your patients and your staff. This includes printed handouts, website content, educational videos, and a list of online resources that patients can visit to get more information about their condition or their child's condition. Having access to this information will help to ease your myopia patients' concerns and ensure your staff is able to communicate effectively with them about their condition.
5. Make sure you have the right equipment.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, assessing and monitoring your myopia patients requires the right equipment. If you are serious about building your myopia management practice, one of the best things you can do is invest in a high-quality corneal topography solution (to ensure more accurate contact lens fittings) as well as a device to measure axial length (which is typically higher in patients with myopia). One great option is the Topcon MYAH Biometer & Corneal Topographer, which combines corneal topography, pupillometry, anterior cornea wavefront analysis, and contact lens fitting tools, making it a comprehensive device for monitoring axial length. In addition, the Haag-Streit Lenstar Myopia expands your capabilities with precise measurements for early detection of myopia onset and state-of-the-art myopia management with graphic visualizations for easy education and consultation with patients and parents.