Welcome to The Bright Eyes Podcast: Advice for Healthy Vision for All Ages. Your hosts are Dr. Nate Bonilla-Warford & Dr. Beth Knighton, residency-trained optometrist that provide eye exams for glasses and contacts, and specialty services including vision therapy, myopia control, orthokeratology, and sports vision training. Their mission to empower patients by providing the best in friendly, professional, and individualized eye care.
In this episode, Dr. Nate talks with Optician Esther Rodas about Myopia and the treatment options to control it.
You can listen in the player below or read the transcript. The show is available via Stitcher, Google Play, iTunes, and the webplayer below. You can find all previous episodes here. If you have any questions or suggestions for future episodes, please email office@BrightEyesTampa.com.
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Introduction [00:00:10] Welcome to the Bright Eyes podcast. Advice for healthy vision for all ages. Your hosts are doctor Nate Bonilla-Warford and Dr. Beth Knighton. Residency trained optometrist providing eye care to all ages with exams for glasses and contacts and specialty services including vision therapy, myopia control, Ortho-kertology and sports vision training. Their mission is to empower patients by providing the best in friendly, professional and individualized eyecare.
Dr. Nate [00:00:38] From rainy Tampa Bay. It’s the Bright Eyes podcast.This is episode number 15. I’m Dr. Nate Bonilla-Waford and today’s episode is all about myopia control. I’d like to introduce our special guest today this is Esther Rodas. Esther is an Optician. She works here at Bright Eyes and not only is she an optician, she’s our myopia control coordinator so Hi Esther.
Esther [00:01:05] Hello everyone. So Esther here just like Dr. Nate just mentioned and been here for about a couple of years and usually I will be the one that you talk to if you have any questions on myopia control and scheduling and all of that good stuff.
Dr. Nate [00:01:21] Absolutely. And when Esther joined us she was a student at the Hillsborough Community College in the opticianry program. And now that she’s got her license she works with us full time and we are so lucky to have her and patients just love her and all the staff does too.
Esther [00:01:37] Happy to be here.
Dr. Nate [00:01:38] Excellent. So Esther we introduced myopia in episode six as part of our refractive error episode. And here’s our vision therapist Miriam giving the definition of myopia.
Miriam [00:01:56] Myopia, aka nearsightedness is a condition where objects up close appear clearly while objects far away appear blurry. With myopia, light comes to focus in front of the retina instead of on the retina.
Dr. Nate [00:02:10] So myopia is all about nearsightedness. It’s all about not being able to see very far away without either contacts or glasses or lenses of some sort or for adults they can consider refractive surgery like LASIK. From your perspective Esther when a doctor diagnoses a child with myopia what are some of the most common questions that parents will ask you?
Esther [00:02:36] Definitely first thing they ask is if it’s permanent. If it’ll get better the older that they get?
Dr. Nate [00:02:43] Right. And that’s one of the questions that they ask us doctors are very first thing. They’re like, are they going to outgrow this? Are these glasses that they need? Or is this something that after a while they won’t need anymore? And one of the things about myopia that’s important to understand is while we see it as vision getting blurrier or glasses getting thicker or stronger, what’s really happening in myopia is the eye ball itself is stretching, it’s getting longer and getting bigger and it’s much easier for the eye tissue to stretch and elongate rather than it is to shrink and get smaller. And so for that reason when we’re talking about myopia I like to say it’s a one way street but it doesn’t really get better. And so after they kind of digest that what are the next questions that parents will ask you?
Esther [00:03:40] So once they know what can potentially happen and the inside of the eye they definitely know the options at that point what they can do to limit that progression.
Dr. Nate [00:03:51] Right. And so when I talked to parents, we always talk about myopia as a condition that needs to be managed. It’s not just in one point in time it’s a lifetime of change that we need to think about. We always talk about myopia in the short term and in the long term. So in the short term, kids need to be able to see, they need to be able to see the board at school, they need to be able to see for sports they need to be able to function in everyday life. There’s a variety of different ways that we can help them be able to see clearly and that’s the common things that people are familiar with glasses, contacts, the night time treatment contacts of ortho-K can help people see clearly. So there’s different options and we need to address that first because it’s very important that we make sure that kids have useful vision for living their lives. But, we also need to make sure that we are addressing the long term component. Because myopia tends to worsen and sometimes more dramatically in some patients rather than others- we need to make sure we’re addressing that and offering different kinds of treatments to hopefully reduce the risk of progression. So in our office Esther, what are the three main ways that we use to reduce the progression of myopia?
Esther [00:05:26] We offer here the Atropine medicated eyedrops as one solution. We offer Ortho-keratology which is the night time lenses and we also offer specialty designs soft multi-focal lenses to help with that progression.
Dr. Nate [00:05:46] Right. And we feel very strongly not just with myopia but with all of our patient care that every option needs to be tailored individually to the patient. So it’s not one size fits all. It’s not that every single patient who comes in needs any one particular treatment but it depends on their lifestyle,it depends on their goals,it depends on their genetics,it depends on if they’re more likely to progress. So very briefly we’ll just go over what these options are. The first one which is the most easy to administer are the Atropine eye drops. Now, atropine is a medication that dilate the pupils and it reduces the eyes ability to focus. And for that reason, it hasn’t been widely used in the United States. It’s used for many many conditions but not for myopia control. Until recently when it was discovered that you could use a very low concentration to minimize the side effects. So we have many patients who are on the low concentration atropine treatment to reduce the likelihood of progression. We don’t know exactly how the atropine works, what it’s doing in the eyes but it’s been shown in many many many studies to be effective. So that’s that’s one option. The other option like Esther said was the multifocal contacts.The multi-focal contacts are worn in the daytime just like any other soft contact that you’d be familiar with. But it has a special optical treatment which provides some stimulus to the eye that reduces its need or its inclination to to get worse. We can optically change how the light focus is on the back of the eye to reduce that stimulus to progress and get worse. And so that’s the daytime contacts. The nighttime contacts the Ortho-K does the same thing optically, but it actually reshapes the eyes so that you can see clearly without daytime contacts or glasses. So you get a little bit of a two for one with ortho-K which is great. So once we do the exam and we take lifestyle into account, we look at all of the the treatment options and I will recommend a particular treatment option for a patient. I’ll bring them out and then they will go over the details and the logistics of that treatment option with Esther at that point. What kind of questions do you get?
Esther [00:08:24] So definitely the top question which you kind of touched on right now is their parents are only super interested and intrigued of like the science behind each one and the how is it that the atropine, the multi focal and that the nighttime lends aid in hopefully limiting that progression of the nearsightedness for their child. So anything you can add to what you just said.
Dr. Nate [00:08:48] So the interesting thing about myopia control is even though there are many many scientific papers exploring how well these different options work and how they relate to each other- we don’t thoroughly understand exactly how they work. We have a pretty good idea of how the optical effects of the multi focal contacts on the ortho-K works to reduce that stimulus to progress. We really don’t know as much about how the atropine works. We know that atropine has been used for hundreds and hundreds of years and it’s been used for many many conditions and it’s extremely safe to use. We don’t know what’s exactly going on at the molecular level to help keep the eyes from progressing, but we do know it’s very effective. I know the parents don’t think that that’s a super satisfying answer but it is the honest answer at this point. So what other questions do parents ask you?
Esther [00:09:45] Definitely risks. They want to know what kind of risks are involved and short term risks and long term risk as well. So for example the night time contacts as they are more rigid than the soft lenses. And they always want to know what the risks are for abrasions and things like that. Almost the same for soft contact lenses for short term risks. Long time parents want to know if the ridgid of lenses will affect the kids eligibility to do maybe LASIK in the future. Parents also ask about any effects that that may have on things such as glaucoma and any long term risks in the medicated eye drops. So it’s kind of like a few questions and one.
Dr. Nate [00:10:34] Well I think that that’s really important topic because with any procedure or with any therapy we always need to weigh the benefits and the risks and that’s part of the discussion that always happens between me and the parents when we’re talking about undertaking one of these treatments. Fortunately in the big picture all of these have been proven to be very safe. And that’s why we can feel comfortable doing them. And that’s why I feel comfortable with both of my children using these different methods. My son uses the medicated eyedrops. And my daughter does the night time Ortho-K lenses. Obviously, if I didn’t feel they were very safe I’d be reluctant to use them with my own kids and I know that lots of doctors around the country and around the world have their own children and in myopia control programs similar to these as well. So let’s talk about the different risks with any contacts. There are certainly risks especially if you don’t use proper hygiene, if you don’t care for them properly. If you use them in a way that you shouldn’t be then you increase those risks. Fortunately all of the scientific studies that have shown that with the Ortho-k lenses for night time don’t have any additional risk compared to traditional contact lens wear. And so that that helps us educate patients properly now. The very first question that people ask me is often, well I was told that I shouldn’t sleep in my contacts because it’s not healthy. So why is it healthy to sleep in these contacts. That’s a great question because it’s true that you shouldn’t sleep in your daytime contacts because one- they’re often not intended for that two- if you’re sleeping in them in the nighttime and then wearing them in the daytime then you’re wearing them for a full 24 or multiple cycles. And that can create problems because the lenses never get cleaned with Ortho-k. One, they are super breathable materials. Two, they’re designed specifically to be worn at night and three they’re only worn for about eight hours at night and then they’re being cleaned and stored the rest of the time. Furthermore the Ortho-k lenses rarely or never leave the house. It’s not like the contact lenses that you wear where you get pollen in them you, get dust in them. If you are out and about your eyes can get sweaty you can get sunblock on them if they goes in your eyes etc. Whereas Ortho-k you put them in before you go to bed you take them out in the morning and they’re clean and so the lenses stay very, very clean and we’re very, very clear about the proper method for keeping the lenses clean. Once we have the proper care method established then the risks go way,way down. It is possible in the short term, if the patient doesn’t have good insertion technique for putting the lenses in to lightly scratch or abrade their eye but that’s very, very rare and when it does happen it’s mild and it resolves right away. Now fortunately, we’ve never had any infection for any of our patients and that is incredibly rare with proper care. That’s the same for our for our soft contact lens patients soft contact lenses are healthier than ever before and the risk of infection is is very, very low. I will add here and I always tell patients all the time, that you should never use tap water or you should never clean your lenses with anything other than solutions that have been provided. You shouldn’t shower or swim or go on lakes or hot tubs with your contact lenses on because that can introduce contaminants or bacteria or amoebas that can cause a severe infection. So I was always educating about that.
Dr. Nate [00:14:48] Regarding the atropine, there are known side effects like I mentioned about sensitivity to light and focusing, but by using the lower concentration those are dramatically reduced. Other than that, the only real side effect that can happen with patients sometimes is if the drops come with a certain preservative and the patients are sensitive to that preservative it can cause an allergic like reaction where the eyes get red and irritated. Many of our patients use non preserved drops and that’s not an issue we haven’t found that to be a common problem. But it’s theoretically possible and some patients you it’s hard to know whether they’re they respond to preservatives or not. In the long term, for long term use- atropine has been used for for many years without any problems or side effects.
Esther [00:15:49] We do go through a couple of compounding pharmacies.
Dr. Nate [00:15:53] Yeah, we do have some options and that’s actually an important point. So if you get the high concentration atropine which we don’t use very often except in the very most stubbornly progressive cases, you can get that at almost any pharmacy because that’s the standard formulation that is used to treat eye disease. The lower concentration is only available through compounding pharmacies and we have a variety of options that we can we can help patients acquire that.
Esther [00:16:25] Have you got at all questions about if it’ll affect someone’s eligibility for LASIK in their future or the glaucoma?
Dr. Nate [00:16:33] Yeah and that’s actually a very common question and it’s a great question because sometimes patients are concerned well maybe this reshaping with Ortho-k reshaping of the cornea will adversely affect them for their chances for Lasik and I say you know exactly the opposite. The goal of Ortho-k is to keep the eyes the prescription is stable enough over the long term so that they remain eligible for for LASIK or refractive surgery. What typically happens is people will do Ortho-k starting when they’re when they’re younger maybe you know 10 or 12 years old and they’ll keep doing it until they’re an adult they might stop at 18 or I had a patient just the other day was 12 and she’s now 30 and she’s been doing it continuously. But if she or other patients wanted to stop as an adult they could wait until their eyes go back to their natural shape and once that’s stable and it’s confirmed to be stable with repeated curvature measurements then they are eligible for LASIK just like any other patient will be.
Esther [00:17:44] How about the glaucoma question?
Dr. Nate [00:17:47] So the glaucoma question is interesting because people worry about glaucoma for this reason- they think the Ortho-k lenses press on the eye to reshape the lenses. And if they’re pressing on the eye then that’s going to increase the pressure inside the eye and if you increase the pressure inside the eye that’s going to increase the risk of optic nerve damage called glaucoma. Now the reason why it is not a risk for glaucoma is because Ortho-k lenses don’t actually work by pressing on the eye what they do is they they are kind of a rigid surface that goes over the cornea and then over time the cornea conforms to that lens it- actually kind of expands outwards to meet the shape of the lens so instead of pressing on the eye, the cornea actually reshapes itself or expands to meet the lens. So there’s no reason to think that the pressure inside the eyes increases when we do Ortho-k and therefore there’s no added risk for it for glaucoma. Again kind of like LASIK, nearsightedness itself is a risk factor for glaucoma if you have very high myopia in nearsightedness you have increased risk for for glaucoma. So it may be that doing Ortho-k might actually help reduce the risk long term of glaucoma.
Esther [00:19:25] That’s great information. Thank you. I would say those are the top questions and the last question that I always get at the very end is if these methods are FDA approved?
Dr. Nate [00:19:38] Right. And so here’s the thing about FDA approval all of these methods are FDA approved for a variety of conditions and treatments but not specifically for reducing the progression of myopia. So we’re very clear when we talk to parents and we have it in writing and we explain that while all of these treatments are scientifically valid and there is many studies that talk about the the benefits that the FDA itself has not gotten around to evaluating yet and stating that these methods are specifically approved for the reduction in the progression of nearsightedness. Many other countries have, and there’s lots of scientific evidence to show that it is, but no the FDA hasn’t. Now, all of these things like the atropine eyedrops are approved for treating many, many kinds of conditions including Amblyopia,which is something that we see in the office a lot. A multi-focal contacts are certainly approved for lots of conditions. Specifically, presbyopia for older adults who need to see up close. Ortho-k, the nighttime contacts is approved for treatment of nearsightedness so that people can see clearly throughout the day, but they haven’t gone that extra step yet in approving it specifically for the reduction in the risk of progression. So that’s something that we think it’s important that people understand it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it, but it is in the state of approval right now.
Dr. Nate [00:21:29] Well, hopefully this has been helpful for people who are interested in learning more about myopia control in the future we hope to have some more episodes detailing how each of these methods work. I think it would be kind of fun to have my kids on and they can talk about their experience. That would be that would be interesting to hear it from their own mouth. And we have lots of other topics in mind if you have any suggestions I have topics that you’d like to hear in the future, please let us know. I’d like to thank Esther for joining us and talking to us today. And is there anything else you wanna say before we go now?
Esther [00:22:16] Thanks for having me and to all those listening to this podcast. If there’s any questions if you want to schedule a myopia consultation with Dr. Nate just ask for myself Esther and be more than happy to answer any questions that I can and get you on our schedule right.
Dr. Nate [00:22:34] And if you want to you can call us at 1-813-792-0637. Or you can e-mail the office at office@BrightEyesTampa.com. Until next time,stay dry.
Outro: [00:22:46] Brought to you by Bright Eyes family vision care and Bright Eyes Kids. Find previous episodes and more detailed information at BrightEyesTampa.com. Creative Commons copyright attribution noncommercial use. The only purpose of this podcast is to educate and to inform. There’s no substitute for professional care by a doctor experienced in the area you require. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute a medical or other professional advice or services. Please consult your physician for diagnosis treatment.
Intro/outro music: Lucas Warford of Three For Silver.