Myopia, also known as nearsightedness, is when light focuses in front of the retina instead of on it, which causes distant objects to appear blurry while nearby objects appear clear. Development of myopia occurs in childhood and continues to progress through adolescence. Researchers predict by the year 2050, the prevalence of myopia will increase to about 5 billion people worldwide.

There are two types of myopia: simple myopia and pathological myopia. 

  • Simple (mild) myopia occurs when the eyeball is too long, or the cornea (the front surface of the eye) is too curved. 
  • Pathological myopia is a form of severe myopia and occurs when other changes in the structure of the eye cause light to focus abnormally.

What Causes Myopia

Myopia (nearsightedness) occurs when the eyeball grows too long from front to back or when the cornea, the white front surface of the eye, has too much curvature. Genetics and our environment also play a role in developing myopia.  

Genetics

Studies have shown that nearsightedness can be inherited from parents to children. If one or both parents have myopia, their children have a greater chance of being myopic. Research shows that school-age children are three times more likely to develop myopia if their parents have it.

Environment

Research shows that too much up-close work in childhood is a risk factor that can lead to myopia. School-aged children or adults who read a lot or do up-close work without taking breaks are more likely to develop myopia. Up-close work causes the eye muscles to work harder, leading to a temporary change in the eyeball shape. Over time, this can lead to myopia.

Ocular Disease

Ocular disease can lead to myopia in several ways. First, if the eye cannot focus light properly, this can cause the eyeball to grow too long from front to back, leading to myopia. Second, ocular disease can also cause the cornea to become irregular, leading to myopia.

Symptoms of Myopia

The most common symptom of myopia is difficulty seeing distant objects clearly. There’s a wide range of other symptoms you may notice, such as:

  • Blurred vision. This occurs when your eyeball is too long, or your cornea is too curved.
  • Difficulty seeing objects at a distance. You may find it difficult to see things far away, such as road signs or the TV.
  • Squinting. Because myopia makes distant objects appear blurry, you may find yourself squinting in an attempt to see them better.
  • Headaches. If you experience regular headaches because of eye strain, this could be a symptom of myopia.
  • Eye fatigue. Myopia can cause eye fatigue and blurry vision because your eyes have to work harder to see clearly.
  • Night myopia. This type of myopia occurs at night when there is less light to help you see. You may find it difficult to drive at night or to read in low light.

Myopia Progression

Myopia typically progresses during childhood and adolescence, when the eyeball is growing. The condition usually stabilizes in early adulthood, but it can continue to progress into middle age. In some cases, myopia can worsen rapidly, known as progressive myopia. This can lead to serious problems, such as retinal detachment.

Treatments

Myopia can be treated with glasses, contact lenses, or Lasik refractive surgery. Refractive surgery can correct the curvature of the cornea. In some cases, myopia can be treated with medication, but this is not a standard treatment.

Eyeglasses and Contact Lenses

Corrective lenses or contact lenses can correct the cornea’s curvature and allow light to enter the eye and hit the retina in the right spot. This will help you see distant objects more clearly. Glasses or contact lenses can also help reduce the amount of strain on your eyes, which can help relieve headaches and eye fatigue.

Low-Dose Atropine

Low-dose atropine is an effective treatment for myopia. Atropine works by temporarily paralyzing the ciliary muscles (eye lens muscle), which decreases the eye’s focusing power. This results in a reduction in the degree of myopia. Studies have shown that low-dose atropine is safe and effective in slowing myopia progression in children and adolescents. 

How to Tell if a Child Has Myopia

There are several ways to tell if a child has myopia. The most common symptom is difficulty seeing distant objects clearly. Myopic children often squint or have regular headaches, which could signify myopia. You may also notice that your child is rubbing their eyes more than usual

Emmetropization

Emmetropization is the process by which the eyes achieve clear focus. This usually happens during early childhood, as the eyes grow and develop. Emmetropization can be affected by environmental factors, such as light exposure. If the eyes cannot focus properly during this critical development period, myopia can result.

Myopia Management

There are a number of things that can be done to help slow the progression of myopia and prevent its onset. These include:

  • Outdoor activity. Spending time outdoors and engaging in physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of myopia. Studies have shown that children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to develop myopia. This may be because outdoor light helps regulate the release of dopamine, which helps control eye growth.
  • Up-close work: Avoiding extended periods of up-close work, such as reading or using a computer, has been shown to reduce the risk of myopia. This is because close work decreases the amount of light that enters the eye, leading to changes in the shape of the eyeball.
  • Eyeglasses: Wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses can help to reduce the amount of strain on the eyes and prevent myopia from progressing.

Get Regular Eye Exams

Getting a regular comprehensive eye exam is essential for people with myopia, as it can help detect any changes in eye health. These changes can then be treated early, which can help to slow the progression of myopia. In addition, regular eye exams can also help to identify any other underlying eye health conditions that may be contributing to myopia.

Don’t Worry, We’re Here to Help

While myopia is on the rise, there’s no need to worry. Our optometrists at Youth Dental & Vision are more than happy to discuss your child’s treatment options for myopia. We will help you understand more about myopia and what we can do to help. 
We offer vision appointments at our two locations in Denver: Grove St and Hampden Ave, as well as in Aurora and Thornton. For more information on our locations or the services we offer, email [email protected]. To book an appointment at one of our 4 locations call (303) 953-8801. We look forward to caring for your vision needs.