What is myopia?
Myopia, or short-sightedness, is a refractive error where distant objects appear blurred while close ones are clear. The blurry distance vision is caused by an optical property of the eye, where light focusing happens in front of the retina instead of on it.
What is myopia’s global problem?
It is estimated that half the world’s population has myopia and this number is expected to increase to almost 70% by 2050. It is even more worrying that, according to a study conducted in Singapore, 40% of teenagers will be at risk for high myopia (requiring surgery) if no interventions are taken.
Myopia can be easily prevented or cured and is a condition that we can improve by simple means. There are already many studies about how to manage myopia, but there is still not enough awareness of the problem.
Myopia development: what age does myopia develop?
Myopia typically develops in childhood and progresses as one gets older. In children, it may be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In adults, however, myopia is most frequently caused by the environment.
In developed countries such as Australia or America, 80% of children with high hyperopia will become low to moderate myopia in adulthood. On the contrary, only 20% of children who start with low hyperopia will become myopic adults.
The problem is much more serious in East Asia where up to 90% of teenagers will be at risk for high myopia if no interventions are taken.
Different severities of myopia: how does severity affect vision?
Myopia affects different people in very different ways and the severity of the condition is mainly determined by its genetic background and possibly also lifestyle and environment.
Best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA) is typically measured using an eye chart where one needs to recognize at what letter people can see best – or just above that. With myopia, this means that people will see well what is close to them but will have trouble seeing what is further away.
Myopia usually progresses as one gets older so, if not managed properly, people with myopia can develop high myopia and even lose their sight completely. High myopic eyesight becomes worse when looking at objects that are far away (e.g. stars or other people’s faces), as the retina is unable to focus on those objects.
Causes of myopia?
As mentioned above, myopia is caused by an optical property of the eye where light focusing happens in front of the retina instead of on it. This typically happens because the eyeball has grown too long or the cornea has curved too much but can also be due to excessive stress on certain areas of the eyes.
Myopia is often inherited from parents but can also be caused by excessive time spent indoors. It is also the case in East Asia where https://plano.co/eye-health/myopia-nearsightedness-shortsightedness/ is most prevalent, due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Diagnosis and treatment: what do optometrists do?
Optometrists measure refractive error using a variety of methods such as retinoscopy, visual acuity tests, and autorefractors. After measuring refractive error they will determine whether the patient needs vision correction with glasses, contact lenses, or laser surgery.
There is very little that optometrists cannot treat nowadays. However, the availability of resources and equipment varies in different countries, and in rural areas people often have to travel far away to get their eyes tested.
Management of myopia: what can be done?
Prevention of myopia can be done by taking good care of the eyes from a young age. This means wearing appropriate glasses or contact lenses when prescribed, getting regular eye tests, and protecting the eyes from UV radiation, e.g. with sunglasses.
Cases, where the refractive error is too high for laser surgery, will require some form of glasses or contact lenses Treatment will result in a gradual reduction of myopia and a decreased need for stronger prescriptions.
In some cases, managing myopia can be challenging. Non-adherence to the prescribed eyeglass wear is one issue that optometrists face regularly. Other challenges include developing countries with no optometrists or proper equipment and patients who find wearing glasses uncomfortable.
Myopia is a global problem that we can solve together. Myopia is a condition that affects tens of millions around the globe and, if not managed properly, may result in irreversible visual impairment. That’s why we need to work together to raise awareness, find better measuring methods and treatments for myopia.