You can never say enough how important your eyes are. You are lucky to have your vision, as it allows you to see the wonders of the world. However, as any part of your body, it could suffer from problems too, especially if they are not properly cared for. Fortunately, you have technological advancements you can rely on to diagnose eye and vision conditions and to control and treat them. However, it still pays to know what conditions you should be wary of, the most common of which today is myopia.
What is Myopia?
Myopia, also known as nearsightedness, is a very common type of refractive error of the eye. A refractive error occurs when the light rays entering the eye bend incorrectly, altering images sent to the brain. A person with this condition will generally see nearby objects clearly. However, distant objects will appear blurry. For instance, reading a book close enough will pose no problems, but texts and objects from afar tend to be blurred or shadowed.
Myopia Signs and Symptoms
The simplest sign of myopia is difficulty seeing faraway objects clearly. You’re likely to have the condition if you experience the following:
- Squinting or partial closing of the eyes in order to see clearly.
- Headaches mostly related to eye strain.
- Trouble seeing while driving, especially at night. (A symptom of night myopia)
- Excessive blinking.
- Frequent eye rubbing.
The Prevalence of Myopia
It is reported that myopia affects about 30% of the U.S. population. According to a study by the National Eye Institute, myopia prevalence grew from 25% of Americans in 1971 to 1972 to a whopping 41.6% in 1999 to 2004. Furthermore, it is estimated that at least half of the world’s population, which is about five billion, will be myopic by 2050.
What Causes Myopia?
As mentioned above, myopia is a condition wherein the eyeball is elongated or too long. However, it can also be caused by the cornea and/or lens being too curved for the eyeball’s length. Some cases of myopia are due to a combination of these errors. What is not completely clear is what causes the eyeball to elongate, although researchers are exploring various factors.
In many patients, myopia runs in families, leading to the belief that the condition might be an inherited. This is probably why some children are diagnosed with myopia at very young ages. Sex, age, and ethnicity are also looked at as probable cause of nearsightedness, as well as environmental factors such as sunlight exposure and the amount of time spent performing close-up work. Additionally, scientists are also considering the influence of one’s body clock or circadian rhythm in relation to daily cycles of light and dark.
Things That May Lead to Myopia Development
Even if the exact cause of myopia is still not known, there are things that are believed to aggravate or trigger its development. These include:
- Excessive reading
- Overuse of computers and gadgets
- Intensely close visual work
- Visual stress
- Health conditions such as diabetes
Myopia Control Options
Generally, myopia and its symptoms are permanent and cannot be cured once they have developed. However, organizations and groups such as the Institute for Control of Eye Myopia in Children continuously attempt to discover proactive means of symptom control and treatment.
The first step toward managing myopia is regular eye examinations, with routine eye checks recommended for children as young as five years old. This is especially important if the child is showing any signs of vision trouble.
Once myopia is diagnosed, there are four main treatments utilized to control it:
- Atropine eye drops. A medicine designed to dilate the pupil and relax its focus center.
- Multifocal contact lenses. Special lenses that have different powers in different zones of the lens.
- Orthokeratology (Ortho-K). Special lenses worn at night to prevent myopia symptoms from occurring during the day.
- Multifocal eyeglasses. Eyeglasses with multifocal lenses. These treatment options offer varying levels of success depending on a person’s current condition. To ensure the right treatment is prescribed, eye doctors need to carry out comprehensive eye exams.
If you think you or any of your loved ones have myopia, don’t hesitate to consult a trusted eye doctor in your area right away. It might not have a cure but myopia can be controlled, keeping the condition from affecting your day-to-day activities. The sooner myopia is diagnosed, the sooner the appropriate treatment can be applied, which may have a hand in preventing other eye conditions from developing or worsening.