Myopia (Nearsightedness)

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What is Myopia?

Short-sightedness, or myopia as it is known medically, is a refractive error of the eye that is easily corrected. It is one of the most common reasons for wearing spectacles in the UK and worldwide. It is more common in South East Asia and becoming more common in Europe and North America.

In short-sightedness (myopia), the vision is blurred for objects in the distance. It usually occurs when the eyeball is longer than required for the curvature (power) of the cornea or more generally when there is a mismatch between the refractive power of the eye and the length of your eye. This results in light rays coming to focus behind the retina; for normal crisp vision the light rays need to focus on the retina.

The condition usually develops in childhood or teenage years and even low levels of short-sightedness (myopia) can blur your distance vision significantly. The blurred vision is commonly noticed at school when the whiteboard cannot be seen clearly or when one eye is accidentally covered.

  • Blurred distance vision but good preservation of intermediate and near vision
  • Headache after prolonged activities that require visual attention; this is often caused by partially closing the eyelids, as this tends to improve the vision
  • Increased difficulty with night vison, as at night-time we naturally become more myopic

There is no definitive cause, but several studies have identified associations and risk factors for developing the condition. Short-sightedness (myopia) has been linked with a family history of the condition, particularly when parents and siblings are affected. Studies with twins have also indicated a strong predisposing genetic element.

Education level has also been linked with developing myopia, with the condition being more common in university graduates than non. Increased use of computers and less outdoor play are also consistent associations. These are relatively similar risk factors and the common underlying activity may be high levels of near work, such as reading, academic work and computer use. It has been postulated that the accommodating effort of the lens (focusing) required for near activities may stimulate the eyeball to become longer.

Short-sightedness and other refractive errors can be diagnosed by your optometrist (optician) or eye doctor. The examination involves a refraction in order to assess the refractive status of the eye. Other abnormalities of the eye, such as cataract or keratoconus, may be detected.

Myopia (Short-Sightedness) 1
Myopia causes objects that are far away to appear blurred.

Myopia Correction

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How can short-sightedness (myopia) be treated?

There are a few options for the treatment of short-sightedness (myopia):

  • Spectacles are by far the most common modality for the compensation of short-sightedness and other refractive errors of the eye. They are readily available and cheap. However, they are associated with distortion of your peripheral vision, especially for higher prescriptions, and inconveniences, such as getting wet in the rain, fogging when walking indoors, inability to wear sunglasses and the requirement for separate readers, to mention a few.
  • Contact lenses are commonly used for short-sightedness and other refractive errors. They are a good option as they overcome the above limitations of spectacles. They do have their own limitations though; they do reduce oxygen delivery to the eye, they can cause dry eye and with prolonged use can lead to contact lens intolerance and sight-threatening infection.
  • Laser eye surgery provides a permanent treatment to the condition by altering the shape of the cornea; this alters the refractive power of the cornea so that the light rays come into focus on the retina of the eye. At Laser Vision Eye Centre we offer a variety of laser procedures, allowing us to recommend the best treatment for your eyes and your needs; this includes LASIK, LASEK/Advanced Surface Ablation and SMILE, the latest development in laser eye surgery.
  • An Implantable Collamer Lens (ICL) is like a permanent plastic contact lens that is implanted inside your eye, in front of your natural lens. No one can see this phakic lens and you cannot feel its presence in your eye. It is a safe alternative to laser surgery, but it is usually reserved for higher prescriptions when laser eye surgery may not be the best option.

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