Myopia is a visual condition that means one is nearsighted, which means that a person has difficulty seeing things far away or the objects may be blurry. Nearsightedness is extremely common in America, with about 30 percent diagnosed. Some researchers believe it is mostly caused by genetics, but there are others who believe that it is primarily due to the eyes having to work extra hard much of the time looking at things up close.
Myopia can occur if there is a lot of curvature in the clear front cover of the eyes or if the cornea is too long. It occurs when light enters the eyes and they do not focus correctly so things that are off in the distance tend to look blurry.
Typically, nearsightedness begins when children are school-aged and can continue until they are about 20 years old, but it can occur later in life due to visual stress or various health conditions.
Signs of nearsightedness
The most common sign of myopia is having a difficult time seeing objects in the distance clearly. Perhaps you struggle to read words on the television or street signs while driving. You may also notice that in the evening you have a headache, which can occur from the strain on the eyes all day. In fact, headaches among school children is a common indicator that they are having trouble seeing the chalkboard with clarity. If this is the case, it is important to have an optometric examination to have vision testing done.
What does an eye exam consist of?
When you visit an optometrist for an eye exam, you will receive vision testing to determine if you have any vision problems. The optometrist will be able to determine if you have myopia and if so, the degree. If you are nearsighted, the optometrist will give you a prescription lens for glasses or contacts. You may only be slightly nearsighted and only have to wear corrective lenses while driving or watching television. Or, you may have more severe myopia and have to wear corrective lenses all the time.
There are several other alternatives to wearing glasses or contact lenses these days. One option is orthokeratology (ortho-k), otherwise known as corneal refractive therapy. This type of procedure consists of the patient wearing specialized contact lenses to reshape the curvature of the cornea gradually over time. What this does is flatten the cornea so that the light that enters the eye focuses much better.
Another option is a laser procedure that reshapes the cornea by taking off a little bit of eye tissue with the use of a laser on the eye surface. The two most common laser eye surgeries are called laser in situ keratomileuses (LASIK) and photorefractive keratectomy (PRK). During the operation, doctors use special laser equipment and professional ophthalmic instruments. For those with extremely high levels of myopia, there are several surgical procedures available as well.
Why is myopia increasing?
Experts are not sure of the exact cause of myopia, but they do agree that much of it is due to heredity and visual stress. Those that work on computers or read a lot have more of a chance to develop myopia than those who do not. The strain on the eyes to view objects up close can cause the shape of the cornea to curve, thus causing nearsightedness. With all the handheld technology gadgets and computers so common these days, the chances of myopia continuing to increase is quite possible.