Myopia, also known as near-sightedness or short-sightedness, is extremely common. If you’re nearsighted, you’ll experience difficulty seeing objects in the distance – they will appear fuzzy, or blurry.
For example, if you’re driving, you will struggle to read road signs, especially at night.
Playing or watching many sports can cause difficulty – golf, soccer, tennis, rugby, motor sports etc. In fact, anyone with myopia will require some form of visual aid to play or spectate because these tasks all demand excellent distance vision.
Conversely, myopia sufferers are generally able to see close-up objects clearly and easily, especially when they’re young.
An interesting fact – recent research* suggests people are increasingly prone to nearsightedness, caused by increased eye fatigue from using the computer and laptop for longer time.
Children with myopia experience a range of symptoms including:
- A tendency to squint
- Excessive blinking
- Feel a need to sit closer to movie screens, school whiteboards, or televisions to see comfortably
- Can be less aware of objects far away
- Rubbing eyes.
- Blurred vision
- Straining or squinting to see in the distance
- Prone to increased vision problems driving at night.
What causes myopia?
There are a number of reasons for myopia to be present:
- The basic cause of myopia is either that the eyeball is too long or the cornea is too steep, bending the light entering the eye too much to allow clear focus. This causes light rays to focus on a point in front of the retina, creating a blurred image at the retina.
- Often, myopia appears during childhood and genetics can have an influence – if your parents have myopia, there is a greater chance of you developing it.
- While both children and adults can suffer from myopia, it typically onsets in childhood and is often diagnosed during the school years.
- Myopia doesn’t disappear in later age, and can stabilise to some degree.
A standard vision test with eye charts will establish whether someone has myopia. If this is the case, a number of other tests will be carried out, they include:
- A special light, called a retinoscope, can be employed to determine how light is reflected off the retina. Depending on how the light is reflected back from the eye, it can assess whether a patient is near-sighted, or farsighted.
- Lenses are used to measure the extent of the short-sightedness.
Corrective glasses or contact lenses are the simplest answer to short-sightedness. Your optometrist will be able to recommend the correct prescription.
Both options are fine, but not everyone can live with contact lenses on a daily basis. They aren’t right for everyone, so it’s best to discuss this with an eye doctor.
If you suffer from myopia, it’s worth thinking about which option is right for your lifestyle. These are some potential limitations to consider:
- Spectacles are often lost, or broken
- Your prescription will change over time; therefore glasses and contact lenses can become costly over a long period
- If you live an active lifestyle, spectacles in particular can be impractical. If you swim, play ball sports or engage in impact sports such as fencing, rugby, boxing, martial arts and on the like, then you’ll need to re-consider your vision correction options
- Aesthetics – some people simply don’t like the look of glasses
- Even if you can wear contact lenses, they can become uncomfortable if worn for extended periods.
Today, there are a number of alternative and effective options to correct myopia:
- Lasik – this is the most popular refractive surgery available and is able to correct most forms of myopia. The only restriction is you have to wait until your eyesight has fully stabilised, which happens around the age of 18-21. Once you reach 40, your eyesight begins to change once more and you may begin to have trouble reading and seeing up close. The advantage of LASIK is that it’s minimally invasive because the procedure is carried out under a microflap. The laser then corrects the shape of the cornea and the flap is returned to its original position just minutes later.
- PRK – this is very similar to LASIK, but if the cornea is regarded as too thin for LASIK, PRK is the alternative. It requires removing a small layer from the surface of the cornea, so recovery takes a little longer. Nevertheless, it is equally effective in the long term.
- SMILE – the very latest laser eye surgery. This one step procedure is, in essence, keyhole surgery. No FLAP is created: rather, the SMILE laser makes a micro-incision in the top layer of the cornea while also creating a disc-shaped piece of tissue within. This disc is manually removed by your surgeon via the incision, thus reshaping the cornea and correcting vision. SMILE is particularly suited to patients with high levels of myopia.
- LENS EXCHANGE – once you reach your 50s, and are sick of wearing glasses or contacts, a refractive lens exchange is a very good option. The procedure, like cataract surgery (and equally safe and successful) replaces the natural lenses of the eye with an advanced micro-size lens. Now, with new trifocal lens technology, lens replacement surgery can provide vision equal to someone with young healthy eyes.
Anyone born with myopia today can be reassured they will be able to enjoy a perfectly normal life, without needing to compromise their vision in almost any circumstance.
Whether you are young or reaching a mature age, there are a variety of easy, comfortable solutions available and, over time, even more advanced vision solutions will no doubt become available.