What is Myopia? (Nearsightedness)
Whenever you visit the optometrist for an appointment, chances are you'll come across the word "myopia", especially if you require some form of corrective vision. It's nothing to freak out about but it is important to know what it is. Keep reading as we deep dive into everything myopia related.
What is myopia?
Myopia (or nearsightedness) is a very common architectural discrepancy of the eye whereby the front to back length of the eye (known as the axial length) is too long. The longer the eyeball, the more myopic the eye will be. This results in blurry vision when looking further away, and clearer vision when looking at objects close to yourself.
What is the difference between myopia and hyperopia?
Myopia (or nearsightedness) occurs when the eye develops to be structurally longer than average (a long axial length), resulting in blurry vision when looking further away, whilst hyperopia (or farsightedness) occurs when the eye develops to be structurally shorter than average, resulting in trouble focussing at any distance, tired and often achy eyes.
What is myopia caused by?
It’s not entirely clear exactly what causes myopia to develop, but we do know there are both environmental and genetic factors that effect the normal development of the eyes.
Additionally, long term studies on the development of myopia in children have revealed that on average, children who spend a minimum of two hours per day, every day outside, develop less myopia than children who do not. This may be because of the variety of visual stimuli outside e.g. lighting conditions, textures, focal lengths, as well as relaxation, all of which have been linked to the development of myopia.
The risk of developing myopia increases from 33% if you have one parent with myopia to 46% if both of your parents have myopia. Additionally, genetic research has been able to identify upwards of 40 genes linked to the development of myopia. These genes are responsible for signals between the eyes and the brain and affect the way the structure of the eyes develop.
Spending excessive periods of time indoors and focussing at close range without the balance of time spent outside, have also been linked to the development of myopia, so it’s beneficial to have a balanced approach to time spent indoors to time spent outdoors.
What are the symptoms of myopia?
- Blurry vision looking farther than your arms length
- Squinting, or squeezing your eyes to try to see more clearly when looking farther away
- Heachaches caused by eyestrain
- Needing to sit closer to the T.V or front of a classroom or cinema/theatre to see clearly
- Poor awareness of distant objects
- Excessive blinking
- Frequent rubbing of the eyes
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Is there treatment for myopia?
Glasses, contact lenses and laser refractive surgery are the most common methods for correcting myopia.
Wearing the correct spectacle correction with focus the light entering your eye onto your retina to allow you see clearly. How thick and heavy your spectacle lenses are will depend on the amount of myopia you have. The higher the level of myopia you have, the thicker the lens edges will be, and unfortunately, they will be more heavy. Your eyes (as well as the rest of the body) changes as you age, so the prescription will need to be adjusted accordingly over time.
Many people prefer using contact lenses as their primary form of myopia correction, as they have no weight implication, do not reduce your peripheral field of vision and allow for a more natural way of seeing clearly. It’s important to use contact lenses according to the advice of a medical professional due to the increased risk of infection. Additionally, any cleaning solutions and moistening drops can incur cost and effort. Most people also find that contact lenses can make their eyes more dry than not wearing them.
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Complications of Myopia:
- Eyestrain: uncorrected myopia will cause you to squint and strain your eyes to try to see more clearly past your arms length (depending on it’s severity). This can lead to reduced overall energy, tired eyes, eyestrain and headaches.
- Reduced quality of life: confidence, especially in children, may be reduced when an individual isn’t able to see well enough to perform particular tasks well. The joy of some activities may also be reduced or even against the law, if you are unable to see well enough to do them e.g. like driving a car.
- Financial burden: the cumulitive cost of clinical assessments, corrective spectacles and contact lenses can cause particular financial strain, especially as myopia is a chronic condition.
- Retinal implications: the more myopic you are, the more elongated your eye ball is, and as such, the retinal tissues at the back of the eye are more thinly stretched. This leaves the attachment points of the retina more vulnerable and less robust. This can increase the risk of retinal tears and detachments, inflammation, leaky blood vessels and scarring.
If you feel like you're long overdue for a check-up with an optometrist or you have any questions on the above, you can easily see one right from the comfort of your own home using Eyebou's remote consultation.
This article was written by Mai Monavar, Eyebou's lead optometrist.