UAB - School of Optometry - Myopia Control Clinic
 

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If one or both parents of a child is myopic, or nearsighted, odds are the child will also develop nearsightedness. The Myopia Control Clinic at UAB Eye Care helps to slow the progression of myopia through three methods of treatment: corneal reshaping contact lenses, soft bifocal contact lenses and atropine.

Learn more: Myopia Control Clinic

If one or both parents of a child is myopic, or nearsighted, odds are the child will also develop nearsightedness. The Myopia Control Clinic at UAB Eye Care helps to slow the progression of myopia through three methods of treatment: corneal reshaping contact lenses, soft bifocal contact lenses and atropine.

Myopia Control Clinic Optometrists

Frequently Asked Questions

What is myopia?

Myopia is the clinical term for nearsightedness. Nearsighted eyes see nearby objects clearly, while objects far away are blurry without glasses.

In order to see clearly, the eye uses the cornea (the clear window in the front of the eye) and the lens inside the eye to adjust the focus of the light entering the eye. The clearest images are seen when light is focused accurately on the back of the eye (the retina). If the eye is too short or too long, the ability to accurately see the world decreases because the cornea and lens cannot focus the light onto the back of the eye.3 Myopia usually results from the eye being too long.

Just like feet get bigger and children get taller, the nearsighted eye tends to get longer over time. This means nearsighted children often need to get stronger glasses every year as their eyes continue to grow.

What causes myopia?

Researchers are not sure exactly what causes myopia, but it is understood that genetics play an important role. Studies have shown that if a child has one parent who is nearsighted, the child is twice as likely to develop myopia than if neither of the child’s parents were nearsighted. If the child has two nearsighted parents, the child is over five times more likely to develop myopia.

Environment also seems to play a role in the development of nearsightedness. Research has found that more time spent outdoors may protect against nearsightedness; factors like circadian rhythm (internal biological clock) and parents’ education level may also play a role.

How can I correct myopia?

Myopia causes far away objects to look blurry, but the blurry vision can be corrected with glasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery. There may also be ways to control the growth of myopia.

Why try to control myopia growth?

Myopia treatments have been shown to reduce a person’s myopia by up to 60 percent, which could reduce the need for wearing glasses or contact lenses. Myopia has also been associated with common vision-threatening conditions like cataracts, primary open angle glaucoma and retinal detachments. The risk of developing these conditions depends on the severity of the myopia; therefore, reducing a person’s myopia could also decrease his or her chances of developing one of these vision-threatening diseases.

What are some of the treatments for controlling myopia?

Corneal Reshaping Contact Lenses: Corneal reshaping contact lenses are worn during sleep and are removed in the morning. They temporarily change the shape of the cornea so that a person can see clearly all day long without glasses or contact lenses. They are also thought to slow myopia development because they bend light that enters the eye in a beneficial way. Corneal reshaping contact lenses have been shown to reduce myopia progression on average by about 50 percent.

Soft Bifocal Contact Lenses: Soft bifocal contact lenses are routinely worn to help people aged 40 years and older read clearly as well as see far away. Soft bifocal contact lenses also are thought to slow myopia by bending light that enters the eye in a beneficial way. These lenses have been shown to reduce myopia progression on average by about 50 percent.

Atropine: Atropine is an eye drop that typically makes light seem bright because it makes the pupil (the black hole in the middle of the eye) bigger; it also blurs near vision because it reduces the eye’s ability to focus while looking at nearby objects. It is not known how this medication slows myopia development. Low concentration (0.01%) atropine has been shown to slow myopia progression by about 60 percent without increasing pupil size or decreasing near vision dramatically.

How long do I need to be treated?

The scientific community does not yet fully understand how long people should be treated with myopia prevention methods, but the general consensus is that people should be treated until they are at least in their mid-teens or longer.

Are myopia treatments safe?

Contact Lenses: Children (ages 8-12 years) and teens (ages 13-17 years), both of which are age groups that are commonly fitted with contact lenses, are at an equally low risk for developing contact lens-related problems or being noncompliant. Children and teens are able to wear their contact lenses for a similar amount of time each day. In addition, both groups feel that contact lenses improved their social acceptance, appearance, ability to play sports and overall satisfaction with their vision correction.

0.01% Atropine: Low dose atropine is considered to be safe for children. Low dose atropine has been shown to work without increasing pupil size or decreasing near vision dramatically, side effects that are seen with full strength atropine (1%). In fact, only 8 percent of children complained of having problems with low concentration atropine, and glasses can reduce these symptoms if it is harder for the child to read or if the child is more sensitive to lights.

Are myopia treatments FDA approved?

Evidence in the scientific literature suggests that some contact lenses and eye drops may slow the growth of nearsightedness in some children. However, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not specifically approved any contact lenses or eye drops for this specific purpose. All contact lenses and eye drops used at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry have been approved by the FDA, just not specifically to slow the progression of nearsightedness.

Why choose UAB Eye Care to control myopia?

The UAB School of Optometry, which operates UAB Eye Care, has researched myopia control for more than 20 years. Studies conducted by the School’s Pediatric Optometry Services have been funded by the National Institutes of Health, which is the federal government’s research branch.

One NIH-funded study, the Correction of Myopia Evaluation Trial, included the UAB School of Optometry and three other sites in the U.S. The 469 participants were aged 6 to 12 years old when they enrolled in the study. After 14 years, 118 of the original 133 UAB participants (89 percent) were still returning to UAB to be studied. The UAB School of Optometry had the highest recruitment rate and highest retention rate for one of the longest research studies on a single group of children with nearsightedness.

A second NIH-funded study, the Collaborative Longitudinal Evaluation of Ethnicity in Refractive Error, included UAB and three other U.S. sites. The study examined an ethnically diverse group of 4,927 children aged 6 to 14 years old over the course of 15 years to learn more about the development of nearsightedness.

Through these long-term, longitudinal studies conducted at the UAB School of Optometry, the world has learned:

  • Nearsightedness tends to grow between ages 7 and 16.
  • Nearsightedness tends to grow at a rate of about 0.50 diopters per year, which is the approximate amount that requires new glasses to noticeably improve vision.
  • Once discovered, nearsightedness tends to grow for about nine years.
  • Nearsightedness stops growing by age 18 for about 75 percent of children; however, about 4 percent of children will still see myopia growth at age 24.

Because of its success in research, the UAB School of Optometry is one of 10 sites selected in the U.S. to conduct another NIH-funded study of nearsightedness, this time using 0.01% atropine.

Patient and Visitor Information

Emergencies

If you have an emergency after normal business hours (Monday - Friday, 8 am to 5 pm) or during a holiday, please call (205) 975-2020. You will hear instructions on how to contact the on-call doctor.

If you call after hours and it is not an emergency, you can leave a message. Your call will be returned as soon as possible.

Fees, Insurance, and Billing

UAB Eye Care accepts many medical insurance plans, including BlueCross BlueShield of Alabama, Medicare, Medicaid and VIVA. We are also a provider for vision plans such as VSP, Southland, Avesis, Superior, and Vision Care Direct.

Call (205) 975-2020 for more information.

Online Patient Registration and Registration Portal

In order to expedite the appointment check in process, you can register as a UAB Eye Care patient.

Register as a New Patient

If you are an established patient, you can access your patient portal.

Patient Portal

Patient Forms

UAB Student and Employee Benefits

At UAB Eye Care, you’re family. We want to be the home for all your eye care needs.

Benefits for UAB Students

UAB Eye Care provides exclusive discounts for UAB undergraduate and graduate students. Schedule your visit with us and receive:

  • Waived out-of-pocket expenses up to a total of $30 for an annual comprehensive eye exam
  • Waived contact lens evaluation fee ($40) for patients currently wearing lenses and doing well
  • A 25 percent discount on frames and lenses of eyeglasses and sunglasses (some restrictions apply)
  • A 50 percent discount on all contact lens fitting fees

Benefits for UAB Employees

  • Employees covered by Viva Health or VSP insurance are eligible to receive an eye exam with copay. We also accept most other insurances. Call for details.
  • Services received at UAB Eye Care are eligible for payroll deduction (excludes UAB Health Services Foundation).
  • Call (205) 934-5668 to receive express appointment services.

What to Bring to your Appointment

In order to help your optometrist assess your general health and the health of your eyes, please bring these items with you.

  • Your insurance card(s)
  • If you need a referral from your primary care physician, you must obtain it before you can be examined.
  • Your driver's license
  • A list of your current doctors
  • A list of any current health problems
  • A detailed list of medications you are taking
  • All eyeglasses and/or your contact lenses, and any previous eye prescriptions from the past two years.

You may also want to bring a list of questions or problems you may have so that we can answer any concerns during your appointment.

Schedule an Appointment

Call (205) 975-2020 or schedule your appointment online.

Directions and Parking

UAB Eye Care is conveniently located in the heart of the UAB campus at 1716 University Blvd and offers free, dedicated parking for our clinic’s patients in a lot adjacent to our building. Street parking may also be available, and UAB employees or downtown Birmingham residents may be able to walk to our clinic.

From I-65/University Boulevard intersection: Head north on University Boulevard. Continue north approximately one mile and stay in the left lane. Turn left into our parking lot just before 18th Street South. Press the intercom button at the gate, and tell the operator your name. You will then be given access to the parking lot. Note: Do not take the driveway for parking at the Eye Foundation Hospital, located to the right of the UAB Eye Care driveway.

From Red Mountain Expressway: Exit the Red Mountain Expressway onto University Boulevard heading south. Turn right into our parking lot just past 18th Street South. The parking entrance is the second driveway on the right. Press the intercom button at the gate, and tell the operator your name. You will then be given access to the parking lot. Note: Do not take the driveway for parking at the Eye Foundation Hospital, located to the right of the UAB Eye Care driveway.