What is Myopia?

Myopia, or short-sightedness, is an  eye condition in which near objects are seen more clearly than objects that are far away.

People with myopia have poor distance vision. Myopia is also known as ‘near-sightedness’ or ‘short-sightedness’ because people with myopia can still see things clearly that are up close. Myopia is most commonly found in children, but adults can have it as well.

Myopia tends to first develop during adolescence as the eye grows to full adult size. Although Myopia can be hereditary (passed from parent to child), it is not like the colour of the eyes, which is reliably determined by genetic traits. Instead, many environmental factors play a role in the development and the rate of progression of myopia. 

In recent years, the prevalence of myopia has grown at an alarming rate. If current trends continue, by the year 2050, roughly half the people on the planet (5 billion people) will be myopic.

Myopia affects approximately 15 percent of the population. It is the most common vision impairment in the world for people under the age of 40.


What is the cause of myopia?

Myopia occurs when the eyeball grows too quickly in childhood, or when it starts growing again in adulthood. A person experiences myopia when the eyeball is too long, and the cornea (the clear outer layer at the front of the eye) is too steep, causing light rays to focus in front of the retina instead of on it, which results in blurry images.

Research suggests that genetics, environment, ethnicity and individual behaviour are all factors behind the development of myopia.

Although myopia usually stops getting worse around 20 years of age, the condition in children tends to get worse as they grow. Generally, the younger a child is when they first develop myopia, the faster their vision will deteriorate, and the more severe it is in adulthood.

While glasses or contact lenses can correct a child’s vision, research shows that severe myopia can place a child at risk of a number of eye problems later in life, including retinal detachment, glaucoma and macular degeneration.


What are the symptoms of myopia?

The main symptom of myopia is blurred distance vision. Short-sighted people often report difficulty distinguishing details on road signs and scoreboards.

Another common symptom is squinting the eyelids together in an attempt to see clearer. This works by narrowing the aperture they are looking through and therefore reducing the size of the blur circle on the retina inside the eye.

Myopia is corrected with either contact lenses or spectacles. Since these lenses are thickest at the edge, new spectacle lens technologies have been developed to produce thinner and lighter lenses.

Myopia can be the reason behind learning problems in children – especially young children, who are having difficulty seeing, but are unaware that they have a problem. Parents can be on the lookout for signs that their child has myopia:

  • Does your child have difficulty seeing the whiteboard at school?
  • Do they regularly rub their eyes?
  • Do they sit too close to the TV?
  • Do they complain of headaches or tired eyes?

If you have concerns about your child’s vision, book an eye test with your local Eyecare Plus optometrist who will be able to shed some light on your child’s eye condition and treatment.


What is the best myopia treatment?

Usually, myopia is corrected with glasses or contact lenses. Adults may consider laser surgery of the cornea, but that is not recommended for children. Other treatments include atropine eye drops, which slow the progression of myopia, or specially-designed orthokeratology contact lenses for overnight wear.


What are the benefits of green time?

A number of studies have shown that when children spend more than two hours a day outdoors, the risk of myopia is reduced. That holds true even when both parents have myopia and even when the children continue to do near-work. 

According to one Australian study, the total time spent just being outdoors is the important factor. Scientists suggest that the brighter light outdoors stimulates the release of dopamine from the retina, which controls the growth of the eye. 


What is the impact of screen time during lockdown?

As consensus builds, healthcare professionals have become increasingly concerned about the impact of lockdowns and home-learning on children in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To counter the effects of prolonged ‘screen time’, children (and their parents) should do a screen time self assessment and devote a portion of their day to ‘green time,’ that is: time spent outdoors, engaging with nature. 

While green time is not a direct cure for myopia, it can provide a helpful balance for the developing child. By increasing time outdoors you will reduce time on your digital devices – and promote healthy lifestyle habits. 

Contact your local Eyecare Plus optometrist to discuss the most suitable treatment for myopia.

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