Ortho-K can help slow progression of nearsightedness by up to 50%. This treatment gently reshapes the cornea. As a result, neither glasses or contacts are needed during the day to see well, and myopia progression can be slowed down. The safety and effectiveness of this treatment has been shown in multiple clinical studies involving elementary school children.
Myopia, or nearsightedness, is believed to be caused by multiple factors occurring in one individual. In other words, there are many factors that seem to be associated with myopia development. For example, recent research indicates that first-born children are more likely to have myopia than younger siblings.
20/40 visual acuity is a common pass-fail mark for vision screenings. Visual acuity testing measures the absolute smallest letter size that a person can see at a specific distance. This testing of eyesight is different than sustainable acuity. Sustainable acuity is the eyesight level at which a person can comfortably and easily read for an extended period of time. A common rule-of-thumb is that a student’s visual acuity should be three times better than the size of the words that are being read in order to read comfortably for an extended period of time. This means in order to read a typical 8th grade book comfortably for an extended period of time, a student should have 20/20 eyesight. In order to read a typical 4th grade book comfortably, a child should have approximately 20/25 acuity. Someone who only has 20/40 eyesight would only comfortably be able to sustain reading print that is the size of newspaper sub-headlines or a typical 1st – 3rd grade book. When a child becomes uncomfortable, he/she will often be more easily distracted while reading.
There are other visual skills that can affect sustainability of reading. Some children, even if they can see 20/20, have a difficult time reading for lengthy periods of time or reading at a proper rate because of poorly developed visual skills. Visual acuity, though, is a contributor to decreased reading rates. If a child is only seeing 20/40, please schedule an eye exam for him/her.
Students improved by more than 20 percentage points on their achievement testing when given eyeglasses that corrected for their previously undetected farsightedness. In this clinical study involving three public schools in New York, undetected hyperopia and poor fine eye movements were shown to be related to poor academic performance. The study showed that both undetected farsightedness and poor fine eye movements were more commonly found in students who were performing in the bottom 25th percent of their class. This study did not address improving the poor fine eye movements.
In another study involving 782 elementary students in Iowa, the authors found that students with uncorrected farsightedness scored significantly lower on their reading achievement test scores. The effects of uncorrected farsightedness on reading was again shown in a study involving 1298 eight-year old students in Wales. Students with uncorrected farsightedness scored significantly worse on the national assessment of literacy than those who did not have the same vision problem.
These clinical studies, and others, show that uncorrected farsightedness can have a negative effect on reading. Correction of previously undiagnosed farsightedness can have a positive effect on reading. There are many different factors that can affect academics. Even within vision, there are more issues than farsightedness that can affect a child’s ability to read, write and learn. However, since farsightedness is relatively easy to correct, it is important for any child starting school or any child who may be struggling at school to have a yearly eye exam with a licensed eye doctor. If further help is needed, then the proper follow-up testing or referrals can be made. Farsightedness is easily missed during school or pediatrician vision screenings that only test for distance eyesight and simple eye alignment.