In his 18 years as an optometrist, Dr. Nate Bonilla-Warford, a Tampa Bay eye doctor who specializes in treating kids has seen it all — pink eye, sports injuries, even foreign critters that have somehow made their way into a child’s eyes. (Yikes!) But in the last few years, Dr. Bonilla-Warford, OD, of Bright Eyes, has seen something truly frightening in kids — and it’s on the rise. It is a condition known as myopia, sometimes called ‘nearsightedness.’ What you might not realize is that myopia is a chronic and progressive disease that poses the biggest eye health threat of the 21st century.
“Myopia is a growing problem for children,” said Dr. Bonilla-Warford. “The COVID-19 pandemic has further increased the rates of myopia progression due to a decrease in time spent outside and an increase in near work with online gadgets, and it’s important for parents to take their children to an optometrist every year for a comprehensive eye exam to protect their eye health.”
Myopia in childhood occurs either because of excessive eye elongation caused by genetics, too much near work and not enough outdoor time. According to the Cleveland Clinic, if your child spends too much time doing “near” activities, such as reading, using smartphones and/or computers, it may increase the risk of developing myopia. Other risk factors may include diet, physical activity and even light exposure. That means all those days being indoors playing video games and not playing outside could be having a larger impact on children’s eyes even more than parents may realize.
“There is no cure for myopia, but there are steps you can take to protect your kid’s eye health. According to a recent study, a child can reduce their chances of being myopic just by spending more than 76 minutes a day outside,” said Dr. Bonilla-Warford. “I encourage all parents to help their children take measures to cut down on screen time and spend more time enjoying the outdoors.”
Myopia doesn’t always have clear symptoms which is why it is critical for every child to get an annual eye exam. Still, parents can be on the lookout for symptoms of blurry vision when their child is looking at distant objects, squinting or needing to sit at the front of the classroom to see clearly, or reports of headaches due to eyestrain. Parents should also know there are options available, like the new FDA-approved ortho-k lenses.
Benefits of Myopia Treatment
The new FDA-approved ortho-k lenses called ACUVUE® Abiliti™ Overnight Therapeutic Lenses for Myopia Management are specifically designed and fitted to match a patient’s eye based on its unique corneal shape to temporarily reshape the cornea while they sleep. This gives children and parents an option to correct their vision and resume their daily activities without any issues. The number one thing parents can do to protect their child’s eye health is to get a comprehensive eye exam each year with an optometrist.
Dr. Bonilla-Warford isn’t just an eye doctor, he is also a dad to two teenagers who both take measures to limit their myopia progression and he is hopeful we can reduce myopia rates in Tampa.
“Our industry has made significant strides developing high-quality care and treatment options, like ACUVUE® Abiliti™ Overnight Therapeutic Lenses. We have the resources to treat our children today and prevent future eye health issues when they are older. I tell everyone – get your kid’s eyes checked! Together, Tampa Bay can be at the forefront of healthy eyes by making sure we all do our part to limit the chances of myopia.”
 Holy C, Kulkarni K, Brennan NA. Predicting Costs and Disability from the Myopia Epidemic – A Worldwide Economic and Social Model. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci.2019;60(9):5466-5466.
 Carr BJ, Stell WK. The Science Behind Myopia. 2017 Nov 7. In: Kolb H, Fernandez E, Nelson R, editors. Webvision: The Organization of the Retina and Visual System [Internet]. Salt Lake City (UT): University of Utah Health Sciences Center; 1995-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470669/.
 JJV Data on File 2021. Menicon Design History File.