Nearsightedness, technically known as myopia, is a condition which causes difficulty focusing on objects at a distance, while near vision remains normal. Myopia is one of the most common vision problems worldwide and it is on the rise.
Myopia Signs and Symptoms
People with myopia are usually able to see well up close, but have difficulty seeing objects at a distance. Due to the fact that they may be straining or squinting to see into the distance, they may develop headaches, eye fatigue or eye strain.
Myopia is a refractive error caused by an irregular shaped cornea that affects the way light is focused on the retina. For clear vision, light should come to a focus point directly onto the retina. In myopia, the cornea is longer than usual, resulting in a focus point that falls in front of the retina, causing distant objects to appear blurry, while close objects can be seen normally.
Myopia typically has a genetic component as it often appears in multiple members of a family and it usually begins to show signs during childhood, often getting progressively worse until stabilizing around age 20. There may also be environmental factors that contribute to myopia such as work that requires focusing on close objects for an extended period of time and spending too much time indoors.
Diagnosis of Myopia
Myopia is diagnosed by an eye examination with an qualified optometrist. During the exam the optometrist will determine the visual acuity of the eye to prescribe eye glasses or contact lenses. A prescription for myopia will be a negative number such as -1.75.
Treatment for Myopia
Myopia is typically treated with corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses and in certain cases refractive surgery such as LASIK or PRK is an option. Surgery is the most risky treatment as it requires permanently changing the shape of the cornea. Other treatments involve implanting a lens that reshapes the cornea called a phakic intra-ocular lens or vision therapy. A treatment called Ortho-k, in which the patient wears corneal reshaping contact lenses at night to see without correction during the day can be another option.
While some people require vision correction throughout the day, others may only need it only during certain tasks such as driving, watching television or viewing a whiteboard in school. The type of treatment depends on the overall health of your eye and your eye and vision needs.
What is Myopia Management?
Myopia management is an evidence-based program that can halt or slow the progression of myopia in children. Each myopia management treatment has varying benefits and levels of efficacy; our team of eye doctors can help you decide which method is most suitable for your child depending on their age and myopia level.
1 in 3 Children Have Myopia
Statistics show an alarming increase in myopia (nearsightedness) among children—25% in the past 40 years alone. Today, myopia affects 40% of North Americans, and by the year 2050, half of the world’s population is expected to be myopic.
More than 50% of parents are unaware that myopia increases the risk of developing severe eye diseases such as glaucoma or retinal detachment later in life.
Many researchers believe that increased use of digital devices and reduced time spent outdoors are among the causes.
Myopia Increases the Risk of Severe Eye Diseases
Myopia progresses rapidly during childhood. As the level of myopia increases, so does the risk of sight-threatening retinal damage, such as glaucoma, cataract, retinal detachment, and myopic macular degeneration (maculopathy). Early treatment through myopia management can slow down or even stop the progression.
Higher Risks With High Myopia
Glaucoma. Research shows that people with moderate or high myopia have a 50% higher risk of developing glaucoma.
Cataract. The rate of cataract surgery in people with high myopia is 17% higher than in patients with moderate myopia.
Retinal Detachment. People with high myopia run a five to six times higher risk of retinal detachment than people with low myopia.
Is Myopia Management Right for My Child?
The ideal candidate for myopia management is a child or young adult with practically any degree of myopia. Although it’s best to begin myopia management as early as possible, many older children, teens, and college students can still benefit from this treatment.
But first, here are a few factors to consider before embarking on a myopia management program:
- The patient must be at least 6 or 7 years of age
- He or she must be willing and able to care for contact lenses
- Must have a certain level of maturity and responsibility
Q&A With Your Local Eye Doctor
Does myopia management work for adults?
Though myopia management is primarily effective in children, some research has shown that it can still be helpful for adults as well. Primary methods of adult myopia management include ortho-k lenses and multifocal glasses and contacts.
Can myopia cause blindness?
Most of the time, myopia does not cause significant short-term vision loss beyond the characteristic nearsightedness. However, an extreme form of myopia, known as degenerative myopia, is a leading cause of legal blindness. Fortunately, it is quite rare, affecting only 2% of the population. Nonetheless, comprehensive eye exams are essential to ensure that myopia doesn’t cause significant vision loss.
How is myopia diagnosed?
Your child’s eye doctor will perform a thorough pediatric eye exam to diagnose myopia, which often includes a visual acuity test, where the eye doctor will use an eye chart made up of letters of varied sizes. If the test results indicate myopia, then the optometrist may shine a light into their eyes and evaluate the reflection of the retina to determine the degree of refractive error for their prescription.
Can myopia lead to blindness?
High myopia may increase your child’s risk of developing more serious eye conditions later in life, such as cataracts, retinal detachment, and glaucoma. Left untreated, high myopia complications can sometimes lead to blindness—which is why routine eye exams are critical.