Improved vision for nearsighted treatment
UH College of Optometry’s dean was rewarded for creating contact lenses that decrease the development of myopia, more commonly known as nearsightedness, in children.
Earl Smith was presented the Donald Korb Award of Excellence, which is given to researchers who have created scientific innovations in contact lenses, at a ceremony held by the American Optometric Association, according to a press release.
“I’ve been actively studying the factors that influence refractive development for the past 15 years. I was inspired to study myopia because high myopia is one of the leading causes of permanent vision disability,” Smith said.
Contrary to former vision treatments for myopia by use of contact lenses, Smith and his researchers discovered that if an image is shifted to the retina, placing the peripheral image behind the retina, the person’s eye extends. The eye extension is what causes an increase in nearsightedness. Using this knowledge, Smith’s contact lenses will shift the peripheral image in front of the retina to give the eyes clear vision.
“It will probably take 2-3 years before the lenses are formally released in the US, of course, depending on the results of clinical trials,” Smith said.
“Our experimental designs specifically manipulate peripheral vision in a manner that we believe retards axial growth of the eye. Central vision is corrected in the usual manner.”
Nearly 30 percent of the US population are affected by myopia, according to the AOA’s website.
“It is a huge public health problem and the prevalence of myopia is increasing,” Smith said. “There is probably not one cause (of myopia). We have learned a number of things about how vision can influence eye growth, both in a positive fashion and a negative fashion.”
Smith and his colleagues will be working with researchers from the Brien Holden Vision Institute of Sydney, Australia, to properly construct the special contact lenses. This research team has developed glasses that have been shown to slow nearsightedness growth in children previously.
“There are still many unanswered questions, and we hope to be able to improve our proposed lens designs,” Smith said.