By ROB Editors & Caroline Guerrero Cauchi, OD, FIAO
About 41.6 percent of Americans are nearsighted, up from 25 percent in 1971, according to the National Eye Institute. Projections suggest that almost 50 percent of the world will be myopic by 2050. Myopia comes with an increased risk of retinal detachment, myopic macular degeneration, glaucoma and the early development of cataracts. Fortunately, there are treatments now to control the progression of myopia, and, in the process, the risk of developing those sight-threatening conditions.
Caroline Guerrero Cauchi, OD, FIAO, of La Mesa, Calif. She says that the field of myopia control has gained enough momentum that it won’t slow down for a long time. “The momentum comes because the epidemic of myopia is increasing. Children are getting nearsighted at an earlier age, and myopia is galloping away. To me, it’s not ethical to keep selling these patients new eyeglasses or contact lenses in 1.00D increments every year. It’s a disease; we can stop its progression,” she says.
Dr. Guerrero Cauchi is a private practitioner and serves on the board of directors for the International Academy of Orthokeratology and Myopia Control, as well as the American Academy of Orthokeratology. She’s also the chair of fellowship testing for both of the academies.
Both organizations are focused on myopia control employing traditional and soft orthokeratology, pharmaceutical treatment, binocular training and behavioral interventions. “In many ways, orthokeratology is like orthodontia. It can make a huge difference to a child’s life,” she says.
Helping Bring Ortho-K to More Families
Myopia control, via orthokeratology (Ortho-K) and other methods, is not typically covered by patient insurance. That means many families may not be able to provide these treatments to their children.
Doctors who offer patient financing are finding a way to make it easier for families to provide these valuable services to patients. Dr. Guerrero Cauchi is one of those doctors.
Soft orthokeratology lenses cost about $500-$600 a year; orthokeratology with rigid lenses costs more for the fitting, but the contact lenses might last longer. That’s where CareCredit plays a role in her practice. “Our office accepts CareCredit credit card payments, so parents can spread these payments out over time.”
For patients who are serious about taking the steps to control a child’s—or their own—myopia, paying with a CareCredit credit card can be a significant help. “We always present this when discussing payment options. If they use their CareCredit card, we tell them about 6- and 12-month special financing options, which makes it more affordable,” she says.
Educating Families About the Benefits of Ortho-K
There are elements of myopia control that cost no money at all, namely have the impactful conversations with families. “We talk about changing behavior, such as encouraging children to spend time outside and spend less time on their electronic device,” says Dr. Guerro Cauchi. “In our office, we live and breathe Ortho-K; we have a beautiful booklet that explains Ortho-K and myopia in detail, talking about not only the pathology but also the social and learning issues that can result,” she says. A PowerPoint video loops on the screen in the reception area every 15 minutes. A big portion of that is focused on Ortho-K and the treatment options for myopia control.