A person with myopia is said to be nearsighted, because they can see objects that are up close, but have trouble seeing images or objects that are far away. Although myopia is generally a mild and manageable condition, severe myopia can trigger much more serious eye problems and can potentially lead to blindness. Learn more about myopia by reading the sections below.
Myopia treatment has come a long way with the advent of refractive surgery. Now many nearsighted patients are able to reduce or even eliminate their dependence on glasses or contact lenses. Learn more about the treatment options available for patients with myopia by reading the sections below.
Glasses and Contact Lenses
Of all the available myopia treatments, wearing glasses or contact lenses is the least invasive, longest-standing, and most adjustable option. Because children and teens are likely to have changes in their refractive error as they grow, glasses or contact lenses are generally recommended for younger myopia patients. A prescription for corrective lenses can be easily changed as needed and there is a lower risk of damage or infection of the eye than with refractive surgery.
The most popular and well-known type of refractive surgery, LASIK involves making a thin flap on the surface of the cornea and reshaping the corneal tissue beneath with a laser to correct the refractive error. The flap is then folded back into place to protect the newly reshaped cornea. Newer technologies that allow doctors to adjust for the unique characteristics of an individual eye have given rise to the term custom LASIK. Benefits of LASIK include a rapid recovery time, high success rate, and the ability to correct a wider range of refractive errors than other types of surgery. Possible side effects include dry eye, glare, and halos around lights at night. LASIK is an effective myopia treatment for many, but some people are not good candidates for the surgery, including those without a stable refractive error, pregnant or nursing women, and people with thin corneas.
Another type of refractive surgery that is an effective myopia treatment is PRK, or photorefractive keratectomy. Like LASIK and other refractive surgeries, PRK uses a laser to reshape the cornea so light focuses properly on the retina rather than in front of it. Instead of creating a corneal flap, however, PRK involves removing the epithelial layer of cells from the cornea with an alcohol solution. This makes the procedure ideal for those who may not be good candidates for LASIK due to thin corneas. It does, however, require a longer healing time, and patients will need to keep their eyes protected until the epithelial cells regenerate.
LASEK is a relatively new type of refractive surgery. It involves weakening the epithelial cells at the outermost layer of the cornea with an alcohol solution and folding them back to create a much thinner corneal flap than is made with LASIK. This allows the laser reshaping to be applied to a much thicker portion of the cornea, while retaining the protective qualities of a corneal flap. As a myopia treatment, this procedure can safely correct higher degrees of nearsightedness than PRK, but is suitable for people with thinner corneas that cannot have LASIK. There is some possibility that the epithelial cells may not hold up well enough to be replaced, in which case the procedure becomes a PRK treatment instead.
Epi-LASIK is similar to LASEK in that it involves the creation of a very thin, epithelial flap rather than the thicker type of flap created with LASIK. Epi-LASIK, however, uses a super-fine blade to push the epithelial cells aside, instead of weakening them with alcohol. This reduces the chance of the cells breaking down and becoming too unstable to be replaced. Epi-LASIK may be an effective myopia treatment for those who are not good candidates for other types of refractive surgery.
Implantable Contact Lenses
A different kind of myopia treatment altogether, implantable contact lenses are surgically implanted in the eye to correct refractive errors and improve vision. Visian ICLs™ are placed between the iris and the eye’s natural lens, while Verisyse IOLs™ are placed in front of the iris, just behind the cornea. Neither type can be seen nor felt once it is in place.
Benefits of implantable lenses include freedom from the hassle of glasses or traditional contact lenses, rapid healing time, and reversibility in the case of eye changes or complications. As with all surgery, there is some risk of infection or inflammation.
Intacs® are a unique type of myopia treatment for people who are mildly nearsighted. Prescription inserts that are surgically placed around the edge of the cornea, Intacs® are designed to gently push the natural cornea into a more optimal shape for clear vision. The procedure to place them is quick and essentially painless and most people experience improved vision the very next day. Unlike having refractive surgery, receiving Intacs® does not require natural corneal tissue to be removed and is entirely reversible.
Myopia is a type of refractive error that usually presents itself in children of about eight to twelve years old. Signs that a child may be nearsighted include squinting, difficulty seeing objects at a distance, and holding books or other objects very close to the face. Occasionally, a person with myopia may have headaches or eyestrain from the effort of trying to focus.
Causes of Myopia
Although theories abound as to what behaviors may trigger or worsen myopia, it is generally accepted within the medical community that nearsightedness is an inherited trait. Nearsighted people have eyes that are elongated or corneas that are more steeply curved than those of the average person, causing incoming light to focus at a point in front of the retina, rather than on it. This type of refractive error is most commonly found in those who have a direct relative with the same condition.
Myopia can be easily diagnosed during a routine eye exam. Usually, a visual acuity test combined with a refraction assessment can not only identify nearsightedness, but can also determine the degree of myopia. The visual acuity test involves reading a special chart from a specific distance. Based on how much of the chart the patient can read, the doctor is able to determine how clearly the patient can see. During a refraction assessment, the patient is asked to look through a device called a Phoropter while the eye doctor changes lenses and asks the patient questions. This allows the doctor to determine what prescription will most effectively correct the patient’s vision.
Moderate to Severe Myopia
People who have moderate or severe myopia may only be able to see objects that are within a few inches of their faces without the aid of corrective lenses. Degenerative myopia, a rare condition in which the eye continues to elongate far beyond a normal range, can lead to a variety of serious complications. These include stretching and thinning of the eye’s outer shell, or sclera, retinal detachment, macular degeneration, increased likelihood of cataracts, and even glaucoma.
Degree of Nearsighted Vision
A diopter is a unit used to measure lens strength. It can also be used to describe the degree of myopia a person has. A person with mild myopia will have a prescription of -3.0 diopters or less. Someone with a degree of myopia of between -3.0 and -6.0 diopters is said to be moderately nearsighted. Measurements of -6.0 diopters and higher are considered severe. The degree of a person’s myopia will affect their candidacy for procedures such as LASIK and PRK.
Contact an Ophthalmologist for an Eye Exam
To learn more about myopia or to determine if you or your child is nearsighted, visit your local eye doctor. Even severe myopia can be managed if it is detected early. Use our directory to find an ophthalmologist in your area.