Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Cure for Nearsightedness?

Today's Medical Examiner in Slate is partly about a potential cure or treatment to keep nearsightedness from progressing in children. It was a strange read for me, because the cure sounds so much worse than the disease. Apparently by putting eye-dilation drops in your children's eyes every night, which forces them to wear glasses that change color in light (so their eyes aren't damaged by being dilated) and possibly to wear bifocals for reading (since you can't focus close-up when your eyes are dilated), you can keep their nearsightedness from progressing.

I started needing glasses when I was around 7, and I hated them at first, and my eyes got rapidly worse in those first few years, and continued to get worse for a while after that. I have to wear glasses to do pretty much anything (even read a book). But I think I would have hated nightly eyedrops and wearing light-sensitive bifocals for years way more than I hated just wearing glasses.

In fact, if you told me right now that by doing that for five years, I could have perfect vision restored to me, I wouldn't take the deal. And I'm an adult.

I wore contacts for a while in high school. I was so happy to not have to wear glasses - mainly for reasons of vanity. At some point I got a little eye infection and had to wear my glasses again for a while, and it made me realize how wonderfully convenient and easy glasses are compared to something you wear on your eye. (Sorry, Sally!) Truly they are just not a big deal.

I know some people have really terrible eyesight, and maybe the results of this research can become something useful, but for now, it doesn't sound like a useful finding to me (even assuming it is confirmed in subsequent research). I feel so strongly about it that I'm not even sure about the ethics of carrying out the research. What am I missing?

1 comment:

Sally said...

What struck me very strongly was how weird it was that 400 parents agreed to have their kids participate in this research. I know this is partly due to my extreme eye protectionism instinct (quite seriously, I might kill you with my bare hands to keep you away from my eyes and it wouldn't be a conscious decision), but it seems crazy to put eyedrops in your kids eyes every day for this reason. And I'm sure kids LOVE having to pull out the bifocals to read. (I guess if we wanted to come up with yet another way to make kids stop reading, this is useful.) But wait, the kids have to wear glasses anyway, the ultra-uncool kind that automatically darken in the light to protect their eyes, so what's the advantage there? I mean, obviously having perfect vision is better than not, but this "disability" is pretty minor as these things go. Aside from having a dinosaur smash your glasses and leave you helpless like in Jurassic Park, how often is it really a problem? The cure does seem almost more onerous than the simple treatment.