Myopia (also known as near-sightedness or short-sightedness) is a relatively common condition that affects your ability to clearly see distant objects. While binocular-like vision might not be essential to most of our everyday lives, myopia can be an issue when driving a car, watching TV or a child’s ability to read a whiteboard in the front of a classroom. The biggest concern with myopia is that its prevalence is rising worldwide. According to the International Myopia Institute, it’s now projected to affect 50% of the world’s population by 2050.
In this blog, we look at how to identify myopia, the leading causes and how to treat it.
- What exactly is myopia?
Myopia is a condition caused by a defect in the structure of your eye. It occurs when the eyeball is too long, or the cornea (the protective external layer of your eye) is too curved. These defects lead to images being focussed incorrectly within the eye (called refractive errors by eye doctors). The outcome of your eyes focussing poorly is blurred long-distance vision.
- Know the symptoms
A comprehensive eye exam is the number-one diagnostic tool for myopia, and it’s usually picked up through regular screening during childhood. Typically, myopia is diagnosed before age 20, but if not, it can lead to further eye issues. The main symptoms include:
- Distant objects look blurred or fuzzy, but close items are crisp
- Persistent headaches
- Fatigue when undertaking activities that require you to look more than a few metres away – like sports or driving.
In children, you may also notice:
- Increasingly holding objects close to the face
- Attention spans shorten
- Difficulties at school
- Developing a lazy eye
- What are the leading causes?
There is a considerable amount of research (both past and present) into the causes of myopia, and it’s currently believed that heredity is the most significant factor. If one or both of your parents have myopia, your chances of also having it drastically increase.
However, eye experts don’t believe it’s purely our parents who are to blame. Both heredity and environmental factors are likely causes.
Research indicates that the amount of time children spend in ‘near’ activities – such as in front of devices –raises the risk of developing myopia by up to 80%. This could explain why it is on the rise globally.
- What are your treatment options?
Myopia can worsen with age, so it’s essential to get treatment as soon as possible. Your eye specialist will typically recommend one of the following:
- Glasses or contact lenses – corrective lenses effectively sharpen the blurred vision caused by myopia.
- Myopia control – specific treatments can be used to delay or slow down the progression of myopia. These include medicated eye drops and specialised contact lenses worn at night to help reshape the eye (known as orthokeratology).
- Lifestyle factors – limiting the amount of ‘near’ activities and vitamin D exposure (good old-fashioned sunshine) can help slow myopia’s progression.
- Refractive surgery – surgery can be used to reduce the need for glasses or contact lenses. In refractive surgery, an ophthalmologist will reshape the cornea using laser technology. It’s important to note that even after surgery, you may still need to wear corrective lenses some of the time.
The best outcomes stem from early and effective diagnosis
Don’t let life pass you by in a blur. With early identification and treatment, it’s entirely possible to slow and delay the progression of myopia. And with the incidence of myopia on the rise, it’s important to get your eyes (and your children’s) checked not just when you notice any changes, but regularly.
Let’s get you seeing clearly, so you can live life to its fullest. Get in touch with the Auckland Eye team today!