Nearsightedness (or Myopia; short-sightedness) is an error in the refraction of light. Meaning the eye does not refract light properly to form a sharp image. In myopia, nearby objects appear clear, but distant objects look blurry.
Myopia is a common eye condition that affects about 30% of people in the world, according to a study from 2016. This is a disorder in focusing the image in the eyes, not an eye disease. Nearsightedness ranges from mild, where treatment may not be required, to severe, where a person's vision is significantly impaired.
Learn more about the condition in this Ophthalmology24 article:
What Causes Nearsightedness?
Myopia usually occurs when the eyes develop to be longer than normal. Meaning that the light does not focus precisely on the light-sensitive tissue (the retina) at the back of the eye. Instead, light rays focus directly in front of the retina, causing distant objects to appear blurry.
It is not clear what exactly causes the eye to become myopic. But it has been found that it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Myopia is hereditary. In other words, if you have a myopic parent, you are at a higher risk of developing the condition. With that in mind, be sure to tell your eye doctor if someone in your family has nearsightedness.
Surely, myopia brings some discomfort and to a certain extent affects the quality of life of the myopic individual by blurring out their world. The good news is, myopia does not pose an immediate danger to your health.
There are 3 types of viable treatment options for nearsighted adults:
Corrective Lenses for Myopia
Glasses and contact lenses are the easiest and most non-invasive ways for optical correction that help the eyes focus on distant objects. Depending on your budget, comfort needs, lifestyle, and eye health history, you can choose the one which is the right myopia treatment option for you. Or you can choose both! Wear your glasses every day, and your contacts for special occasions.
Consult an eye doctor to get the right prescription for eyeglasses and contact lenses to achieve optimal vision.
Laser Correction for Myopia
There are different types of laser refractive surgery that aim to correct the refractive error of the eye. The most common are LASIK and PRK.
Refractive surgery changes the shape of the transparent part of the eye using a special laser. The entire procedure lasts about 5 minutes and is completely painless. According to the type of surgery (SMILE, LASIK or PRK), the recovery period is different (from a few days to a few weeks), after which the patient could achieve the best possible vision.
Depending on other underlying eye conditions, the results from laser procedures could lead to different outcomes and 20/20 vision is not always attainable.
Results are individual! In this regard, always consult your ophthalmologist before booking a laser procedure. The eye doctor can clearly explain and clarify any concerns. You will find out which option is best for you, what the risks and recovery periods are, as well as what to expect.
Myopia correction with intraocular lenses
In this type of refractive error correction, an artificial lens is placed in the eye so that light can properly focus on the retina. In myopic people, the so-called "phakic lenses" are implanted in front of the natural lens of the eye (without removing it). Careful early and postoperative monitoring is advised, as there may be some complications involved.
Importance of Regular Eye Exams
People with myopia should have an eye exam at least once every two years, as well as additional ones whenever they have any symptoms. An eye exam can confirm whether you are nearsighted (myopia), farsighted (hypermetropia), or have astigmatism. You may be given a prescription for glasses or contact lenses to achieve maximum clear vision.
Regular eye exams are also a necessity to detect eye diseases or conditions before they escalate into something severe. Early detection and treatment are key to healthy eyes and good eyesight.
Myopia in Children
Myopia tends to begin around puberty, during the school years. It gradually progresses until the eye has finished growing. There is also myopia that develops in very young children and babies.
Symptoms of Myopia in Children
When a child grows up with myopia, oftentimes they do not realize they can't see well. Because that is how they saw the world until now and they adapted to life with a refractive error, more or less. Even when myopia gets worse with time, the slow gradual change might still be difficult to detect by the child.
Having that in mind, you need to pay attention to the habits and behaviors of little ones. Your awareness and observations might be the key to early detection.
Symptoms you will notice if your child is nearsighted may include:
Complaints of blurred vision at a distance
Squinting when trying to focus on the distance
Sitting at the front desks in school because it is difficult for them to read the board
Watching TV from too close
Complaining of headaches or tired eyes
Regularly rubbing their eyes
You may also want to listen up if they ever complain they can't see signs or objects in the distance.
Diagnosing Nearsightedness in Children
The only sure way to diagnose a child with myopia is by paying a visit to an eye doctor for a pediatric eye exam. The exam will check the child's vision and determine if they need to wear corrective lenses. Aside from that, the doctor can provide advice on how to protect eyesight and slow the progression of myopia. As well as provide a prescription for glasses or contact lenses.
If you think you or your child may be nearsighted, schedule an eye exam appointment with an ophthalmologist.
Follow Up Eye Exams for Children with Myopia
Children with myopia should have an eye exam at least once every year. And any time they have vision concerns or complaints. A follow up eye exam can confirm prescription changes and assess if there are any shifts in the diopters. Regular vision screenings are imperative for children with myopia so their eyesight remains stable and healthy.
Spending more time outside can help reduce the risk of myopia in children.
Frequently Asked Questions About Myopia
What Eye Diseases are Related to Nearsightedness?
Adults with excessive myopia and young children with untreated myopia are more likely to develop other eye problems as well. These may include:
Strabismus - a condition that occurs in childhood, in which the eyes look in different directions;
Lazy eye (Amblyopia) - a childhood condition in which vision in one eye does not develop properly;
Glaucoma - damage to the optic nerve based on high ocular pressure;
Cataract - cloudiness in the intraocular lens;
Retinal detachment - where the retina detaches, and stops receiving nutrients, leading to poor vision.
Why Myopia is Called Nearsightedness?
While myopia is the medical term, the common refractive error is mostly known among patients and the general public as nearsightedness. It is an easier term to remember and explains the nature of the condition pretty well.
The word is a literal explanation of what myopic people see. It means a person can clearly see things (-sight) that are near them (-near), while objects in the distance appear blurry or out of focus.
Who Gets Myopia?
Everyone could have myopia. Most people notice the first symptoms in their childhood and the condition progresses by the time they become adults.
If you start experiencing nearsightedness discomforts in your adulthood instead, go see an eye doctor to determine exactly what causes these vision changes. There is a possibility that your refractive error is actually a symptom of something more serious going on with your health.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy might have a temporary effect on vision, too. If you are pregnant and your vision acuity deteriorates, go consult an ophthalmologist to address your concerns and change your prescription if needed.
Does Myopia Get Worse with Age?
During childhood and teenage years, the eye is still developing. That's why it is normal to experience your myopia "getting worse" while growing up. The good news is, this progression does not last forever.
Once the eye stops growing, in your early adulthood, your nearsightedness will stop getting worse. Once you reach your 20s and you would barely notice significant myopic changes in your diopters for decades to come. (Unless you have an underlying condition.)
Does Myopia Go Away on Its Own?
When you are a child or a younger adult, you need to wear prescription lenses or go for an intervention (laser correction or surgery) to correct myopia.
Only if you are an older adult (above 50) or elder, you might notice your nearsightedness goes away. But that is due to the eye alterations caused by caratact (clouding of your natural lens), NOT because your eye 'decided' to change its shape on its own.
Are Eye Exercises and Vision Therapies Effective?
You can NOT cure myopia, you can only correct it. Correction with eyeglasses, contact lenses, intraocular lenses, and laser surgery are the only effective treatments for myopia.
Some people claim that they miraculously overcame their nearsightedness with eye exercises and vision therapy. But the truth is, there is no scientific proof that these "self-healing techniques" are effective. The ophthalmology community does not support this type of "remedy" and medical doctors refer to them as scams and placebos.
Will Myopia Lead to Blindness?
Nearsightedness, by itself, is not likely to lead to blindness.
However, if you have a more serious underlying eye problem or experience lower visual acuity as a result of eye disease, then indirectly, you actually have that risk. If this is the case, you need to treat that other condition with a priority - to save your vision.
Does Blue Light from Screens Lead to or Contribute to Myopia?
This is a myth. Staring at the TV, mobile device displays, and computer screens can NOT alter your eyeball shape and elongate it to cause or even worsen myopia.
What the blue light could do, though, especially with excessive screen time, is tire your eyes. Eye fatigue and eye strain could be an absolute nightmare, with symptoms such as eye redness, dryness, itching, and temporary blurry vision. They also cause migraines and discomfort.
Here is what to do to stop or alleviate the symptoms long term: Take short breaks while using digital devices; test if a dark mode theme is better for your eyes (and stick to it); and use artificial tears when you feel eye irritation. For more tips, check out the related article below.
Hopefully, this publication sheds light on the causes, symptoms, and potential treatments of myopia. At Ophthalmology24, we believe that misinformation is dangerous, so we aim to provide only credible and doctor-approved information on the topic of nearsightedness. If you want to learn more about how to protect your vision and boost the eye health of you and your family, check out our blog section. Have any questions? Leave a comment down below.
Checked by Atanas Bogoev M.D.