Myopia of the eyes is a common vision disorder that is often diagnosed before age 20. Also known as nearsightedness, myopia causes patients to have difficulty seeing objects farther away. The most common treatments for myopia include glasses, contact lenses, and vision correcting surgery. Continue reading to learn more about myopia.
Myopia, or nearsightedness, impacts the way one sees objects from far away. In individuals with myopia, vision is clearer when looking at objects nearby. For example, someone with myopia can read a book easily but may have trouble reading a street sign or a board in the front of a classroom. Myopia is extremely common and in most cases, easily treatable.
As mentioned above, myopia is quite common. According to the American Optometric Association, over 40% of Americans suffer from nearsighted eyes. Most patients receive a diagnosis of myopia before the age of 20. Luckily, there are many options for myopia correction available, including prescription glasses and contact lenses, as well as LASIK, SMILE, and PRK surgery, and individuals with myopia can lead very normal and fulfilling lives.
As previously mentioned, in most cases, myopia is a minor and easily treated condition. However, in extremely rare circumstances, patients can suffer from degenerative myopia which can subsequently lead to legal blindness. Some researchers believe that degenerative myopia is inherited and only impacts approximately 2% of the population. Certain ethnic groups appear to be affected disproportionately including those of Jewish, Japanese, Chinese, and Middle Eastern descent.
Usually, the anatomical structure of the eye is the cause of myopia. In many cases of nearsightedness, the eyeball is too long and light ends up focused in front of the retina instead of on it. ( I suggest deleting from here to closed parentheses blocking light from focusing on the retina. The light then ends up in front of the retina instead of on it. )This is similar to using a camera lens that is too long and therefore cannot capture the picture properly. Another cause of myopia is a misshapen cornea, which is the clear, protective layer on the surface of your eye. This is similar to a camera lens being the wrong shape and the picture consequently turning out blurry.
Researchers also believe that nearsighted eyes can be genetic. Many individuals with myopia have at least one parent who also suffers from the condition. Environmental factors may also play a role; children who spend more time indoors may be at a greater risk for myopia. In adulthood, visual stress, such as extended time using a computer, may also cause the condition.
As we’ve discussed, there are many biological reasons for myopia, including the eyeball being too long or the cornea, the clear layer on the eye, and being too curved. These issues can cause a refractive error, which occurs when images focus in front of the retina, or the “screen” in the back of your eye, instead of directly on it. This is similar to a blurry image caused by a projector not being aligned to a screen properly.
Sometimes, a refractive error caused by the length of the eyeball becomes a greater issue and can cause high myopia or degenerative myopia. High myopia occurs when the eyeball grows beyond its normal limits and becomes excessively long. This causes severe nearsightedness and can also lead to other complications such as detached retinas, cataracts, or glaucoma. Similarly, degenerative myopia is caused by the extreme growth of the eyeball, and can potentially result in legal blindness. This condition can also cause a detached retina, choroid neovascularization (abnormal blood vessel growth), and glaucoma.
Most individuals with myopia only notice blurry vision when looking at objects from a distance. This can manifest in different ways including, but not limited to, the following:
Some patients also experience other symptoms in addition to blurred vision. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
While most patients with myopia are diagnosed before the age of 20, as they mature, especially throughout their pre-teen and teenage years, nearsightedness can grow more severe. However, the disease often stops progressing for most patients in their early 20s. At this point, many ophthalmologists will give patients the option of LASIK surgery because the severity of myopia will remain constant.
Occasionally, patients are diagnosed with myopia later in life. Unlike individuals diagnosed in childhood or young adulthood, adult patients’ nearsightedness usually stems from excessive visual stress or other diseases such as diabetes or cataracts. Many adults develop nearsightedness from prolonged visual stress, such as looking at a computer for most of the day. However, if you are an adult experiencing a new onset of nearsightedness in addition to other symptoms such as floaters (spots blocking your vision) or flashes of light, consult a vision specialist to rule out a more serious condition.
Doctors arrive at a diagnosis of myopia after conducting extensive eye exams. This may look different for children and adults.
For adults, your doctor will test your eyes’ reactions to light and measure the power of any corrective lenses you may need. Providers usually do this using an eye chart; many eye charts have letters in larger fonts at the top that grow progressively smaller as they go down. Your doctor will then ask you to read out the smallest line of letters that you can see clearly. The provider will then use a phoropter, a machine that measures the exact amount of refractive error you have. You will look at a series of lenses through the phoropter and the doctor will ask should delete through which lens you see best. Your doctor will use those results to write your prescription for glasses or contact lenses.
The process is fairly similar in children. Most children receive eye exams at school and their yearly wellness checkups from the pediatrician. If a provider notices that the child may be experiencing symptoms of myopia, they may send the child to a pediatric ophthalmologist or optometrist. That doctor will then conduct an extensive examination, similar to the one a provider would conduct with an adult. They will check the child’s eye pressure, reactivity to light, and refractive error using an eye chart and phoropter.
Even if you do not show symptoms of myopia, it is a good idea for you to have an occasional eye exam to rule out myopia and other conditions. As we’ve noted previously, most children have eye exams with their pediatrician and at school, but adults should get them every five years as well. Once you hit your 50s and 60s, it may be a good idea to have a yearly eye exam.
There are many ways to treat nearsightedness. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
Depending on your age at diagnosis, financial situation, and other factors, you may choose one method of myopia correction over others. Below, you can read more about the most common treatments and compare and contrast them to decide which best suits your needs. You should also discuss each of these options with your doctor.
There are many other options for myopia treatment, including other surgeries and vision therapies, but the above are the most common. You should discuss which options are best for you with your doctor.
Although there is no cure for myopia and no way to guarantee the prevention of the condition, there are measures you can take to preserve your visual health and hopefully slow the progression or delay the onset of myopia. These include, but are not limited to:
Myopia rarely causes severe complications. However, in some cases, it can progress and lead to the following conditions:
While myopia can be a nuisance, it is easily treated. If you have questions about your symptoms, diagnosis, or options, schedule an eye exam with our team at Discover Vision Centers. We look forward to meeting you!