Do you find it difficult to see distant objects, such as the signs on the highway, but reading a book up close is no problem at all? If so, you most likely have a vision problem known as myopia.
What Exactly is Myopia?
Myopia, also called nearsightedness, is a type of refractive error that makes seeing far away objects challenging, if not impossible, without proper aid. Other common types of refractive errors include hyperopia or farsightedness, astigmatism, and age-related presbyopia.
In myopia, the refractive error occurs with the eye shape causing light rays to refract or bend incorrectly. As a result, the eyes focus on images IN FRONT of the retina rather than ON the retina.
How Do You Know You’re Nearsighted?
Since myopia affects distance vision, the individual has a clearer vision when looking at nearby objects. Looking at an object from a distance, especially smaller details or poorer contrast, can be challenging because they look blurry or fuzzy.
Other symptoms to note are:
Seeing dots or specks called eye floaters
Seeing flashes of light or shadows
Squinting, often to see better
Tiredness when looking at faraway objects
Eye fatigue when driving or doing something that requires focus
If you’re a parent and you suspect that your child is nearsighted, one of the most obvious signs is when the child squints to watch TV or tries to go closer to it. Having poor grades in school is something to watch out for, as well. It may be due to having difficulty seeing things from afar – such as being able to copy what is on the board. Myopic children may also have a short attention span because their hazy vision makes their surroundings look uninteresting (this is also true when there is any uncorrected refractive error).
When myopia is suspected, a thorough exam should be carried out where the eye doctor will check for refractive errors or any other underlying conditions. Although comprehensive, it’s quite straightforward and painless. You will usually be required to read letters from different distances. The eye doctor may use a piece (or pieces) of equipment, such as a retinoscope, to check for refractive errors. You may also be given eye drops, which will dilate your pupils.
Causes of Myopia: Are You at Risk?
Even after decades of research, it’s still impossible to pinpoint exactly what causes myopia. But eye experts believe it is a combination of the influences of the environment and heredity. The following will help assess your level of myopia risk:
Your ethnicity – while myopia can affect different ethnic groups, Asians have the highest prevalence, specifically Southeast and East Asians.
Are your parents both myopic? If only one has myopia, you have three times more risk of becoming nearsighted than other people.
Do you use digital devices for work? Computers, laptops, and smartphones are now a part of our lives. But if you have to use them for your job, you are more likely to have myopia.
Should You Be Worried?
Myopia is a global epidemic, being the most common ocular disorder around the world. It does not choose who to affect. Anyone, no matter the age and gender, can become nearsighted. There is no cure for myopia, so it’s only going to get worse from here. It’s even estimated that half of the world’s population (equivalent to about five billion people) will soon be affected by this condition by 2050.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), it’s become a public health issue increasing affected numbers daily at an alarming rate. High myopia is strongly linked to vision impairment risks, including cataracts, glaucoma, myopic maculopathy, and retinal degeneration due to pathological conditions. But high myopia is not only the main concern because low myopia (-3.00 dioptres or less) can pose serious problems, too. Even a low amount of myopia (-1.00D) can lead to an increased risk of vision impairment and blindness.
But should you be worried? After all, you probably know ageing people with myopia who have retained their vision to this day. It’s not that simple. Think of it this way: a person who smokes 20 cigarettes each day faces a six times higher stroke risk than a non-smoker. If you have low myopia of -3.00D, your risk of developing myopic maculopathy is 10 times higher.
Myopic maculopathy (MM) is a serious complication of myopia, which is irreversible and often hard to manage. Additionally, it increases your risk of developing retinal detachment. It is a severe issue where the retina is detached or pulled away from its natural position 22 times.
It’s an upsetting fact that leaves an important message. If you or your child has myopia, it should be managed to prevent or at least delay its progression. That way, the risk of vision impairment and blindness can be reduced significantly.
What Can You Do?
First, let’s make it clear that there is still no cure for myopia. But the good news is that there are a few things that you can do now to delay its progression. As mentioned above, there is added risk for people using devices several hours a day. Here’s a good reason for you to put your phone down. Evidence has shown that spending more time outdoors – at least 90 minutes a day – can delay myopia development.
While outdoors, sun protection is a must. Wearing sunglasses and hats is not only for the skin but for eye health, as well. And while you’re outdoors, be physically active for at least 150 minutes a week (moderate activity).
Your indoor habits may also require some tweaking. For example, you love reading because it stimulates your brain and helps you learn new things. But it’s vital to take care of your eyes, too. Take regular breaks from reading. Remember the 20-20-20 rule, where you look at something 20 feet away (that’s 6 meters) for 20 seconds. Do this exercise every 20 minutes to let your eyes rest and allow them to refocus.
Don’t forget the Harmon Distance or the Elbow Rule, as well, especially when watching videos or reading on your phone or any device. This is especially helpful for gauging the distance for the little ones too. To determine the elbow distance, place a closed fist at the eye. Follow where your elbow is, which tells you the optimal distance for your device or any reading material.
How Can You Help Your Kids?
Are you worried that your child could be myopic? This quick survey will help you determine your child’s risk of developing myopia.
And just like with the tips for adults above, it’s essential to encourage your son or daughter to spend some time outdoors instead of watching TV or playing video games. Outdoor activity is an important factor to reduce the risk of myopia. As much as possible, limit leisure screen time to two hours every day to help maintain their eye health.
Since children’s eyes are still developing, parents should know and understand what they can do for their children. That’s why visiting an eye doctor is crucial.
What is Myopia Control?
Myopia control is a term that refers to the methods doctors use to slow the progression of myopia in children and adults. Because there is no cure for myopia, it is vital to do everything possible to slow its progression and prevent worsening vision as well as developing other issues later in life. Examples of these problems include:
Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma
Myopic Macular Degeneration
At E Eye Place, we specialise in myopia control for both adults and children. We are firmly committed to protecting all of our patients’ visions. We take controlling myopia a step further with advanced technologies, such as the ZEISS IOL Master, which can track changes in eyeball elongation.
Types of Myopia Control
Even though there is no cure for myopia, research in controlling myopia is vital to improve the chances of eventually finding a cure and preventing increased vision issues for patients with myopia.
The Treatment of Myopia
There are four main types of myopia control available that have high success rates. Research has not deemed one type of myopia control treatment better than the others.
In many cases, similar results occur using various kinds of myopia control. It is important to remember that these treatments may be administered one at a time or in conjunction with each other.
Patient age and the disorder’s progression are frequently the primary determiners of the type of treatment or treatments for myopia.
1. Atropine Eye Drops
These eye drops help relax the muscles in the eye responsible for focus. They also slow the progression of myopia due to the way Atropine drops affect the receptors in the retina. The drops significantly impact children and can slow myopia progression for three years. Often lenses are used with Atropine drops to increase myopia control.
Also called Ortho-K, is a highly successful treatment that is an effective way to control nearsightedness and myopia progression.
Ortho-K works by allowing the eye doctor to modify the shape of the eye’s cornea. To alter the cornea, specially designed rigid gas-permeable contact lenses are worn at night. Over time, the nightly use of lenses modifies the cornea shape. Eventually, good vision without corrective lenses is possible. The treatment alters the peripheral image focus and keeps the central vision clear. This peripheral defocus guides the growth of the eyeball and controls myopia progression.
3. Myopia Controlling Spectacles
These differ from ordinary spectacles because their design helps to correct the blurred vision associated with myopia and slows down myopic progression. The spectacles with the highest success rate have numerous one mm-sized lens lets placed across the surface of the spectacle lens. The greatest success in myopia control with these lenses was in the 8-13-year-old age group.
4. Soft Contact Lenses for Myopia Control
The soft contact lenses used for myopia control can correct blurry vision and slow the progression of myopia. The lenses work by slowing accelerated eye growth by directing incoming light rays in front of the retina. This stops the rapid growth which controls the progression of myopia. This form of myopia control has a success rate, especially in children ages 7-12.
Why is Myopia Control Important?
Controlling myopia in kids and adults is vital to slow the progression of the disease and prevent significant problems later in life. Avoiding the complications associated with myopia will improve your quality of life.
Myopia complications range from slight to serious. You may encounter any of the following complications as a result of myopia:
Eyestrain – Mild to extreme discomfort due to squinting and overworking your eyes
Financial Burden – You may need to buy corrective lenses or have expensive surgery
Impaired Safety – Driving and operating machinery can become hazardous because of myopia
Reduced Quality of Life – Performing everyday tasks when you have myopia can be more difficult as the disease progresses
Non-Medical Ways to Decrease the Chance of Myopia
There is a consensus among medical professionals that preventing a problem is always better than treating it after the fact. Several lifestyle factors can help contribute to the prevention of myopia. These include:
Spend time outdoors as sunlight helps to regulate eye growth. However, wear sunglasses to help block the UV rays from the sun
Limit screen time and take frequent breaks
Reduce the amount of time spent doing near work as this contributes to developing myopia
Try to eat plenty of leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits. Adding fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as tuna and salmon, helps maintain eye health
The right amount of rest for your eyes is vital to maintain healthy eyes
How We Can Help with Myopia Control and Management
Part of staying healthy is taking care of your eyes. Having routine eye exams goes hand in hand with eating a balanced diet, being physically active, and enjoying outdoor activities. By visiting an eye doctor regularly, it will be much easier to manage myopia or any vision disorders, especially because they can be detected early.
Our goal at E Eye Place is to help you achieve your best vision. We have a team of experienced eye care practitioners with years of experience in managing myopia. Over the years, we have developed an advanced understanding of myopia physiology, allowing us to provide suitable treatments for patients with low to high myopia.
Our comprehensive suite of myopia control methods includes:
Myopia control spectacles such as MiyoSmart
Myopia-control soft contact lenses such as MiSight contact lenses (FDA-approved)
Orthokeratology lenses for overnight vision correction
Axial length monitoring (the gold standard in myopia control)
No matter your age or degree of vision impairment, care from an experienced eye professional is vital for your well-being and the preservation of your sight. To learn more about your eye health and get treatment for any problems you are experiencing, contact us at E Eye Place. Our caring team can diagnose and treat your vision issues and help you see clearly.
Stephanie is an owner optometrist, researcher and educator. She has held clinical, teaching and research roles in Australia and overseas, and has extensive training and clinical experience. Stephanie is also the head optometrist at E Eye Place, on top of this, she is also currently a PhD candidate at UNSW. Dr Stephanie Yeo Optometrist BOptom (HC1) GradCertOcTher DOPT (Merit) CO Ophthalmic Medicines Prescriber.