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Myopia and New Control Therapies

By Dr. Steve Jacobs, Optometrist

New River ValleyMyopia, or nearsightedness, is more than having to wear glasses to see things clearly far away.  It is a lifestyle disease that has increased in prevalence by 60 percent in the U.S. over the past 40 years and is projected to affect one half of the world’s population by 2050. This epidemic has far-reaching consequences, as myopia, particularly higher levels, is associated with a range of serious eye diseases later in life.

Environmental and genetic factors both play a role.  Having two nearsighted parents increases risk six times versus if neither is, and more highly myopic parents are likely to have more highly myopic children.  Long periods of time spent indoors has a big impact, too.  The huge increase in electronic device use is closely associated with an ever-larger nearsighted population.

There is hope, however.  Fascinating recent research suggests that the more time young children spend outdoors before they become nearsighted, the more the condition can be delayed.  Once nearsightedness begins, the evidence is less clear that outside time can slow things down, but it’s still beneficial in many other ways.  Numerous studies over the past decade have confirmed and clarified three methods to reduce myopia progression in children.  Each year brings better understanding and suggestions of even newer approaches. Two treatments are optical, and the third is pharmaceutical. Each one demonstrates 40 percent or greater slowing of myopia.

Atropine drops were first used for this purpose more than 100 years ago.  However, the side effects of increased light sensitivity and decreased near focusing make this a less than popular choice.  New evidence indicates drastically lower amounts may be comparably effective with insignificant side effects, leading to a surge of current interest.  One drop in each eye at bedtime also makes this a simple treatment to follow.

The way light focuses in the periphery of the back of the eye is believed to influence signals for the eye to grow and become more myopic or not.  Glasses and traditional contact lenses focus light in a way that results in a “grow” signal.  Specially designed soft lenses alter this and have been shown effective in slowing myopia.  Another technique with significant clinical and experimental support, called orthokeratology, or Ortho-K, uses rigid molds (similar to lenses) to achieve this.  Sleeping with the molds overnight changes the front shape through the next day.  This allows clear daytime vision without glasses or contact lenses, making it an excellent choice for young, active children.  Ortho-K is effective and convenient for adults, but its ability to put the brakes on childhood myopia is what really makes it shine in my mind!

It’s exciting news!  Myopia can be controlled!

Dr. Jacobs is an accomplished Blacksburg optometrist and local philanthropist. His business, Drs. Jacobs,  Optometrists, has been a fixture at 620 N. Main St. in Blacksburg for 27 years.

Another interesting development in Myopia Control- A specially designed lens developed by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has slowed down myopia progress by 60% in participating children, and 21.5% of them had their myopic progression halted completely. Read the latest on Myopia Control here.

steve jacobs ortho k 1Following recommendations from many friends, we came to Drs. Jacobs looking for an Ortho-K treatment for my son's myopia. It's been a fantastic experience that we never regret!

Their corneal topographer took very accurate measurements of the eyes, allowing a perfect fit-in of the Ortho-K lens in just one round. Their staff gave my kid a very patient lesson and made sure he could put on and take off the lens all by himself. The care of the lens has never been hard with the kiddo managing the most difficult part.

Dr. Jacobs always follow up each appointment with an email, making you feel that you can ask them any questions at any time. We definitely recommend them to anyone who is looking for a similar eye treatment!

Best,Pang & Zhen


We’ll soon be “Eyes on Main”! And that’s not the only news... please offer a warm welcome to Dr. Mike Gowen.

From Dr. J:

I opened my office in 1990 – That’s 30 years coming up on August 1st!!   In some ways it feels like yesterday, and in others, like forever.  Along with so much else that has changed this year, one more occasion is on the horizon.  I am excited to announce that I am selling my practice to Dr. Mike Gowen.  Dr. G and his wife, SallyAnn, met at Virginia Tech close to 40 years ago. They have been proud and loud Hokies ever since and dreamed of returning to live in Blacksburg.  Both are strong supporters of the arts, athletics and the civic engagement that make this a very special place to live, work and play!

I am thrilled to be handing the baton to a doctor who believes as I do in community service. Plus, he is laser focused also on individualized patient care, personal and professional intellectual advancement and enjoying the good things and kind people who come along every day.

Better yet, I’m not going anywhere!  I will continue seeing patients, focusing on visual rehab for those suffering from concussions/TBI, working to control the progression and consequences of nearsightedness through orthokeratology and other treatments, and counseling all regarding the inter-relation of the eyes, brain and body, along with the importance of nutrition, exercise and mental well-being.  There’s so much I yet want to learn and do, and now I won’t have to worry about arguing with insurance companies.  I’m excited!

From Dr. G:

It’s impossible to express how pleased I am to be moving to Blacksburg. It has long been the dream of my wife and I to become a part of this unique town, where we met as Virginia Tech students and continued to frequent as alumni.    I look forward to the privilege of serving the people of Blacksburg and bringing my lifetime of experience in the field of eye care to serve one and all. I'm delighted that Dr. Steve Jacobs will remain with the practice, which will now be “EYES on Main.” I consider it a great privilege to continue the exemplary patient care and community service that Dr. Jacobs has and will continue to provide to the New River Valley. Together we will serve the Blacksburg community with the same culture of care and community involvement that has always been a part of this practice.

 More updates to follow.  Send us a message or give us a call with questions, comments, or to set up an appointment.

We can always be reached at 540-953-0136!

Sincerely,Dr. J, Dr. S, Dr. G & staff