Written by Teresa Goodnight
Have a nearsighted child? What if you could eliminate their glasses/contact lenses during the day for sports/swimming/life? Would you be intrigued if this new simple treatment could spare your child from the potential of further eye damage? There are many serious potential byproducts of myopic (nearsighted) eyesight as children age. Glaucoma, retinal detachment, myopic macular degeneration and more can plague them in adult years.
Enter Dr. Chris Chenoweth, Wink Optique. He has an incredible passion for helping children’s vision in meaningful ways. Dr. Chenoweth specializes in a relatively new procedure that can help nearsighted (myopic) children ages 4-14 (FDA approval ages). Dr. Chenoweth said, “Parents really need to do this for their kids #1, because it helps them in a lot of their activities. You know, different sports like swimming, basketball, baseball, soccer, where glasses or contact lenses might get in the way or they might get dusty or get thrown off.” Dr. Chenoweth continued, “That’s, of course, the value parents see. For me, the value I see is the power it gives in limiting or reducing the complications with adult retinal detachment, myopic degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts. We can’t do anything about this current generation, but we can do something for this next generation to try to control myopia and reduce the risks of eye diseases. These efforts mean they can live healthier lives as adults. Hopefully, we reduce the amount of overall blindness in future decades.”
Although the lenses are best in correction for the younger children, Dr. Chenoweth said. “These lenses can actually be used for any age to just improve vision, but those 14-18 and above, their vision is relatively stable and it doesn’t help as much for the myopic correction. So, it is better the earlier we intervene.”
I asked Dr. Chenoweth to define myopia for us as the definition can help us see why correction is so critical. Dr. Chenoweth explained, “Adult myopia means the eye has grown abnormally during adolescence. So, it has lengthened, which stretches the retina which makes it thinner, more fragile, and more likely to have eye diseases down the road. The immediate impact on vision is they can’t see distant objects clearly, although they may be able to see near objects fine without glasses.” Dr. Chenoweth went on, “When children are treated with glasses and contacts, the eye continues to lengthen and stretch which damages the way the eye attaches to the retina. There is also some tissue inside the eye that is near the retina called the ciliary body. Issues with that tissue can cause glaucoma and increased risks of cataracts as well.”
At Wink, children are fitted for small lenses to wear while they sleep. Dr. Chenoweth shared, “Measurements are input into a computer, which calculates the proper CRT lens for the child. That lens arrives usually in about two days. Then, within another two days, the vision should be corrected to 20/20 during the day. It’s pretty quick.” Dr. Chenoweth said, “So, within about 3 weeks from the first visit to the ball field, they no longer wear glasses or contacts. It’s that simple. Plus, the lens can actually help myopia not to worsen.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing—mainly because my family has suffered from retinal tears, glaucoma and other more serious eye conditions with aging. These conditions, if not caught just in time, can cause serious permanent eye damage. Plus, for those who don’t know, glaucoma requires daily drop(s) in the eye(s) affected, which honestly causes some stinging and irritation. Of course, it’s better than losing vision in the affected eyes, but still. What if these kinds of early eye corrections with a specialist could prevent these in the future for the next generation?
That’s Dr. Chenoweth’s passion for eye care. He doesn’t just want to help someone see today, but hopefully further improve their vision for the rest of their lives. His wife was born with myopia. He said, “It continued to worsen until she was seeing about as well as Velma on Scooby Doo without her glasses.” Luckily, he also specializes in RK laser treatments, which are incredibly precise (and preferred by most over Lasik surgery). So, she has had her treatment and sees great!
However, when his son, Ace, who is now 10 started showing mild signs of myopia around age 5—he put him into some lightweight glasses. Dr. Chenoweth said, “He was really pretty stable until the end of third grade. Suddenly, he went from mild myopia to a more severe level within about a period of just under a year.” Dr. Chenoweth shared, “With the worsening of his myopia, we ordered his lenses to get him started on CRT. He wears the lenses every other night (sometimes every night). He is free from any vision enhancement devices during the day.” He continued, “Ace didn’t like the lenses at first, at 9 they kinda wanna throw on glasses or not even see well at all. But, within just a few days, he was putting them in on his own and then later taking them out on his own.” Dr. Chenoweth shared, “They are not difficult like soft contacts can be. They are smaller diameter and firmer than a soft lens. After a bit, Ace used the tiny assistive device to pop them out in the morning.”
For Ace, Dr. Chenoweth said, “It’s really been a game changer for him. He saw better the next day. Before treatment, he was around the 20/80 mark. Then, in two days—20/20.” Dr. Chenoweth added, “It actually works for adults too for those who don’t want to or can’t have the RK surgeries. It doesn’t have the same restorative effects for damage done in their youth, but it can correct the vision and eliminate the need for any other kind of lenses.”
Dr. Chenoweth had another patient with a similar condition. This young man’s eyes jumped to a -2.25, which was a pretty hefty jump. His sisters both had severe myopia, one so much that it was really too difficult to try RK or Lasik surgery to fix it. So, Dr. Chenoweth wanted to stop his negative visual progress dead in its tracks. He started the patient on the lenses—20/20 during the day. Then, every few years, Dr. Chenoweth would have the patient go without the lenses for a week just to be able to check where his eyes were, monitoring them for any progression. For all the years, his eyes were still at the -2.25 reading. They hadn’t progressed at all. When he graduates college, he will be able to do a pretty simple RK procedure and remain free of any lenses. “It’s just a game changer.” Dr. Chenoweth said. “Just to be able to stop the progression alone is quite a feat. Then, when the eyes are fully developed, they can be treated as needed without much effort.”
Dr. Chenoweth said, “We have been treating nearsighted kiddos with glasses and contacts for decades. What we didn’t realize is that it actually causes some swelling of the eye. That swelling stretches the retina, which can absolutely cause glaucoma, retinal detachment and/or the myopia macular degeneration. Anyone of these conditions of the eye can cause loss of vision up to permanent loss if not treated properly. So, this treatment for kids is a big deal. It’s really upping our potential level of care for children in a meaningful way.”
Dr. Chenoweth was one of the first in the United States to get credentials to do CRT over 15 years ago. It’s a specialty certification that most eye doctors just don’t tackle. Sadly, most also don’t refer to seek a better path of treatment for these kids. They just keep prescribing glasses/lenses. Dr. Chenoweth said, “It’s similar to orthodontists vs. dentists. It is the same for myopia control (CRT). Not everyone chooses to get the specialization.” He continued, “We’ve been doing this in Ponca City for 15 years and the community is smaller. So, word gets around pretty quickly. However, in Tulsa—we need to do a little better job of making parents aware of this potentially life-altering treatment.” I agree. This kind of treatment could really be life-altering. Call Wink at 918.417.7774
About Wink Optique:
Dr. Chris Chenoweth recently acquired Wink Optique at 101st and Yale. His office performs regular eye exams for all ages. He also specializes in CRT therapy for children, as discussed earlier. He has incredible stories we plan to share in the future—as he has had incredible results with patients–one who thought she would never use one of her eyes again. Eye doctors who are passionate about eye care and eye health both for current situations or preventing long term potential damage, like with CRT are less the norm. His passion for helping children alone moved my heart to want to include him in the magazine.
Dr. Chenoweth is an honors graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma and Northeastern State University College of Optometry and is a former Assistant Adjunct Clinical Professor at Pacific University, Forrest Grove, OR. He is an active member of both the Oklahoma and American Optometric Associations and is trained in the diagnosis and treatment of ocular disease and performs an array of cutting-edge laser eye surgeries. Dr. Chenoweth is also a long-term, faithful Life.Church Jenks member, where he and his wife continue to raise their son, Ace.