December 23, 2023

Myopia, also referred to as nearsightedness, is on the rise, and it is the most common refractive error affecting children and adults.

Myopia is a growing concern regarded as a global epidemic. A recent study by the American Optometric Association revealed that over 40% of Americans are affected by myopia, with the numbers steadily increasing, particularly among school-aged children. The study highlighted that 1 in 4 parents has a child with myopia, and approximately 75% of these cases were diagnosed between the ages of 3 and 12.

These statistics are cause for concern; one study indicates an 8% increase in myopia prevalence over the past 15 years. Despite advancements in modern eye care, the question arises: can myopia be cured? And if not curable, can it be effectively managed or treated? Let’s explore options for restoring distance vision in both myopic children and adults.

What is Myopia?

Myopia is the medical name for nearsightedness, a refractive error that allows people to see nearby objects clearly, but distant ones appear blurred and unfocused.

The root cause of this focusing issue lies in the eye’s shape. As the eye develops and grows, it may elongate, or the surface of the eyeball may curve. Consequently, light rays converge before the retina rather than directly on its surface, leading to the observed phenomenon.

Myopia is a common eye disease. One in four children has some degree of nearsightedness. According to some eye experts, if a child spends too much time in near activities, such as using computers, smartphones, or reading, it may raise their risk of developing myopia.

Symptoms of Myopia

  • Distant objects look blurred or fuzzy.
  • Close items appear clear.
  • Headaches.
  • Eye strain.
  • Squinting.
  • Eye fatigue or discomfort after prolonged visual tasks, such as using a computer or reading.
  • Driving, playing sports, or looking more than a few feet away is difficult.

Some additional symptoms in children include:

  • Poor performance in school.
  • Shortened attention span.
  • Holding objects close to their face.

Can Myopia be Cured?

Myopia is a severe eye condition, and it can have sight-threatening consequences. While there is no cure for myopia, there are several treatment and prevention methods that are proving successful and can manage symptoms and slow down the progress of the condition.

Can myopia get better by itself?

Myopia can be improved independently in a few cases, particularly during childhood or adolescence. The eyeball develops and grows during these years, potentially leading to the vision correcting itself.

Some studies also found that increasing the time outdoors may help protect the development of myopia.

Treatment Options for Myopia

Several treatment options can manage the symptoms of myopia:

  • Eyeglasses
    Corrective lenses are designed to alter the path of light upon entering the eye, allowing the light to converge correctly on the retina and ensuring clear vision.
  • Contact Lenses
    Made of pliable, soft materials, contact lenses are designed to rest directly on the eye’s cornea, the transparent outer layer. Like eyeglasses, they help to adjust light entry into the eye.
  • Refractive Surgery
    Techniques like LASIK, small incision lenticule extraction (SMILE), and photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) use laser technology to reshape the cornea and provide permanent vision correction. Nevertheless, these procedures may only be appropriate for some and have potential risks and side effects.
  • Orthokeratology
    Also referred to as Ortho-K, this non-invasive therapy involves wearing special contact lenses overnight to reshape the cornea temporarily. The cornea maintains its new shape throughout the day, allowing clear vision without requiring glasses or regular contact lenses.
  • Eye Drops
    Low-dose atropine eye drops generally enlarge the pupil during eye exams or surgeries. A mild concentration of these eye drops can slow down the advancement of myopia in adolescents and children.

How to Prevent Myopia from Getting Worse

Although there’s no guaranteed method to halt the advancement of myopia, specific strategies may help slow its progression, especially during childhood and adolescence:

  • Take Regular Breaks: Taking frequent breaks during close-up tasks can prevent eye fatigue, a common problem with myopia.
  • Limit Screen Time: Spending long staring at a computer or phone screen can lead to eyestrain and fatigue. While studies on the direct source between myopia and screen time yield mixed results, following the 20-20-20 rule—taking a break every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds—can be beneficial.
  • Increase Outdoor Time: Research from 2021 suggests that spending more time in outdoor activities during childhood can lower the risk of developing myopia.
  • Diagnose Vision Problems Early: Timely correction of vision problems via regular eye examinations and corrective lenses can help myopia progression.
  • Consider Low-Dose Atropine Eye Drops: Recent research published in 2023 shows that low-dose eye drops can reduce the risk of myopia in children and adolescents. However, further studies must understand whether this treatment can prevent or delay onset.
  • Manage Overall Health: Treating and managing other health conditions, such as diabetes, is essential to elevate the risk of developing myopia.
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