“Smart” glasses that could slow down vision loss

SCIENTISTS developed glasses with “rings” in the lenses to stop or slow the progression of myopia, or nearsightedness, where distant objects appear blurry.

The concentric rings are designed to focus light on the retina, making images clearer and in doing so, slows the rate at which the eyeball changes shape – a hallmark of nearsightedness.

In a Chinese study, 167 children who wore glasses for 12 hours a day saw up to 70% slowing the progression of their myopia after two years.

Myopia is more and more frequent. In the UK, it affects almost 40% of the population, up from around 27% in the 1970s.

It occurs when the eyeball becomes too long and becomes oval in shape rather than round. This changes the way light hits the retina, the light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye that send the visual images we see to the brain.

The elongated eyeball causes light to focus in front of the retina, meaning nearby objects are clear and focused, but those farther away appear blurry.

It is not known exactly why nearsightedness occurs. Genes play a role, but environmental factors are also involved, given the sharp increase in cases in recent years.

Little time spent outdoors is thought to feature. One theory is that bright light triggers the release of dopamine (a chemical messenger) from the retina, which can stop the eye from lengthening.

The problem can be made worse by focusing on phone screens or reading for long periods of time.

Glasses help, but stopping or slowing the progression of myopia has been the holy grail of eye research. Special contact lenses can be effective, but they are not suitable for everyone, especially children.

Stellest glasses look like regular glasses but use HALT (Highly Aspherical Lens Target) technology, which is made up of 11 1mm rings inside the lenses.

According to the manufacturer, “the power of each ring has been ingeniously determined to guarantee a signal volume always in front of the retina and according to its shape, in order to obtain a constant slowing down of myopia”.

In myopia, when the outer areas of the retina detect blurry light from distant objects, the eyeball responds by lengthening to sharpen the images.

But the more we try to focus on these images, the more important and rapid the progression of myopia.

Stellest lenses stop this by changing the nature of the light that reaches the periphery of the retina. The rings are oval in shape to reflect the shape of the eyeball – this is believed to help focus light rays on the retina better.

In a study from Wenzhou Medical University in China, 167 children wore the glasses for at least 12 hours a day and found that they slowed the progression of myopia by 67% on average after two years.

After the first year, eye growth in 90 percent of children wearing glasses was similar to or slower than that of children without myopia. Two-thirds did not need a prescription change, it was reported at the recent Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology conference.

Manufacturer Essilor plans to roll out Stellest specifications in other Chinese hospitals, followed by launches in other countries.

Professor Bruce Evans, Research Director at the Institute of Optometry, says: “New lens designs for myopia control, of which Stellest is one, are a game-changer. They make myopia control much easier, both for practitioners and for patients.

“On average, children who wear contact lenses will be less myopic and, later in life, they will have a lower risk of eye diseases that can accompany myopia.”

© Daily Mail

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