Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a common eye condition that makes focusing on objects in the distance difficult. However, items that are close will likely appear perfectly clear.
People can treat myopia by wearing corrective lenses, such as glasses or contacts, or opting for laser surgery.
This article will take a closer look at myopia, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
Myopia is a refractive error, meaning that the eye is unable to bend, or refract, light correctly. The eye does not focus the light that enters it properly, so images in the distance appear blurry and unclear.
Myopia is very common. The American Optometric Association estimate that it affects nearly 30% of people in the United States.
There are several types of myopia. The sections below will discuss these in more detail.
In simple myopia, the eye is otherwise healthy. Wearing glasses or contact lenses can easily correct the issues that a person has with their vision.
High myopia is a more severe form of myopia. It occurs when a person develops nearsightedness at a young age that gets worse as they get older.
High myopia can increase a person’s risk of developing certain other eye conditions, such as retinal detachment, glaucoma, or cataracts.
People with pathological, or degenerative, myopia will have additional eye conditions. The eye will also have issues that affect the retina, such as:
- lattice degeneration, which is a type of retinal thinning
- retinal atrophy, wherein parts of the retina have wasted and do not work
- Forster-Fuchs’ spot, which is a type of scarring on the retina that can lead to blind spots
Pathological myopia can also cause vision loss that glasses or contact lenses cannot correct.
Myopia occurs when the eyeball is too long or the cornea is too curved. This means that light coming into the eye will stop in front of the retina, instead of on it.
The retina uses light to form pictures that it then sends to the brain. When the light is unable to focus properly on the retina, the image it creates will appear blurry.
Although scientists do not yet know the exact causes of myopia, there are many factors — such as genetics — that could increase the likelihood of developing it.
Children who spend little time outdoors or a lot of time doing up-close work may have a higher chance of becoming nearsighted.
Researchers also suggest that there may be a link between increased intelligence and myopia, though they do not yet know why.
Although myopia usually develops in childhood, it can also occur in adults as a result of visual stress, which occurs when a person overuses the eye’s focusing mechanism.
It can also occur due to other health issues, such as diabetes or the development of a cataract.
Having blurry vision when looking at objects in the distance is the main symptom of myopia. Others can include:
- tired eyes
If a person starts to experience these symptoms, they should speak to an optometrist, who can help determine whether or not they have myopia. The optometrist may recommend glasses or contact lenses to correct the issue.
If a person’s myopia is more advanced, an optometrist might recommend surgery.
Although myopia will not usually lead to other eye issues, it can get worse as a person ages. This is known as high myopia.
A person with high myopia has an increased risk of developing additional eye conditions. These may include:
- retinal detachment
Should vision loss or other eye-related issues occur, the condition becomes known as pathological myopia. This means that the level of myopia is so advanced that it has caused the back of the eye to begin breaking down.
Refractive errors, including myopia, cause 3% of blindness cases globally.
One of the best things a person can do to slow the progression of myopia is to visit an eye doctor regularly. People with risk factors for myopia, such as diabetes or parents with myopia, may also benefit from visiting their eye doctor more often.
An optometrist can perform a number of tests to check whether or not a person is nearsighted.
One part of the eye examination will involve the person reading letters of different sizes from a chart at the other side of the room. The smaller the numbers, the harder they will be for someone with myopia to make out.
The optometrist may also use a tool called a phoropter, which is made up of different lenses that they can position in front of the eye.
When the phoropter is in place, the optometrist will shine light into it to measure how the eye focuses it. This will help them determine the right prescription for the glasses needed to correct the person’s vision.
Once an optometrist has confirmed a diagnosis of myopia, several treatments are available. Speaking to an optometrist can help a person decide on the best option for them.
The sections below will discuss some of these treatment options in more detail.
Glasses and contact lenses
Glasses and contact lenses are the most common treatment options for myopia. An optometrist will order custom lenses that have the right prescription for that person. These will fit into the frame of the glasses and correct any nearsightedness.
Contact lenses are clear discs that sit on the surface of the eye. Like glasses, contact lenses are also customizable for different prescriptions.
Many people who do not like the look or feel of glasses will choose to have contact lenses, as they are a lot smaller and harder to notice. However, it is necessary to change and clean them regularly.
People with mild forms of myopia may benefit from a nonsurgical process called orthokeratology, or corneal refractive therapy. This treatment involves wearing a series of rigid contact lenses to reshape the cornea.
These lenses put pressure on the cornea to flatten it. This, in turn, changes how light focuses as it enters the eye. People tend to wear these contact lenses while sleeping.
This process can help people experience clear vision temporarily. However, it also carries a risk of eye infections.
There are a couple of different types of surgery available to people who would rather not wear glasses, who want a more permanent solution, or who have severe forms of myopia.
One form of surgery is laser surgery, wherein an eye doctor will use a powerful beam of light to change the shape of the cornea.
Laser surgery adjusts how the eye focuses light, meaning that images that were once blurry should now be clear.
However, it is normal to have occasional blurred vision or dry eyes for weeks or months afterward. Attending follow-up appointments after this procedure is important to make sure that the eyes are healing properly.
Other forms of surgery can involve placing a corrective lens inside the eye, either in front of the person’s lens or in place of it. Eye doctors tend to recommend this form of surgery for more severe forms of myopia.
Given that myopia has genetic links, it can be hard to prevent in people who have a history of nearsightedness in their family.
Spending time outside, in the daylight, could help lower the progression of myopia. Making sure not to spend too much time doing up-close work, such as reading or working on a computer, can also help.
In most cases, myopia does not cause any further health problems. There are a range of treatments available that allow people to experience no symptoms of the condition in their daily lives.
For those who have more severe forms of myopia, it is important that they tell their optometrist about any changes in their vision. Without treatment, they could be at risk of developing additional eye problems, or even vision loss.