Myopia is one of the most common eye conditions out there. I bet many of you reading this blog have myopia! So what is it? Myopia is the official, technical term for nearsightedness. Myopia affects approximately 40% of the North American population making it one of the most common vision problems. Despite that, many people don't really understand what myopia is! Let's shed some light on this important topic.
Myopia occurs when the eye is 'too strong' and light focuses too soon. This generally is because either the cornea (the front of the eye) is too steep OR the eye is too long (more commonly it's a combination of both). Most of us, including me, start becoming nearsighted in childhood and our vision gets progressively worse until early adulthood (around 25) at which point it stabilizes. In some cases myopia still gets worse even once we're in adulthood. It's important to remember that 'stable' vision really just means it isn't changing as much or as quickly. There are always some small changes year to year so the term stable is a bit misleading.
Luckily, myopia is very easy to treat. Glasses and contact lenses are the most common and easiest forms of treatment. Both glasses and contacts refocus the light coming into the eye allowing it to focus on the back of the eye clearly. You can also consider surgery, like LASIK or PRK which I'll talk about more in another blog.
The most common question I get from people about nearsightedness is how they can prevent it from getting worse. There are a few techniques that may help reduce how quickly a person becomes nearsighted or reduce how nearsighted they become and I'll discuss them all in more detail in a future blog. Current options to control myopia include multifocal contact lenses, Ortho-K lenses, progressives/bifocal glasses and atropine drops. The two that have shown the most success have been multifocal contacts and Ortho-K lenses and are believed to work by reducing defocus in the peripheral retina (meaning the outer edge of your eye isn't as out of focus as it might be with traditional lenses).
The biggest challenge facing us with myopia is that we still do not fully understand it. Your genetics play a role in whether you end up nearsighted or not but it isn't the whole story. Some recent research has found that people who spend more time outside have lower nearsighted prescriptions than those that spend more time indoors. The jury is still out on whether this is related to lower vitamin D levels, due to things just being further away or something else we haven't thought of yet.