Myopia: Closing in on a looming vision condition

Myopia, commonly known as shortsightedness, is the most common cause of impaired vision in people younger than 40 — and its presence is growing rapidly. 30-40% of people are nearsighted today. By 2050, it’s predicted nearly half of the global population will be myopic.

But why? Let’s look into some of the easy-to-read signs and possible cause of this condition:


Understanding myopia: The long game

Shortsightedness occurs when your eyes cannot clearly see objects at a distance, such as road signs or performers on a stage. If the leaves on the trees look more like steamed spinach than crisp greens, you probably have at least a slight case of myopia. Yet there’s a lot about myopia many people don’t know. For example, are you aware that myopia is often caused when the eyeball grows too long, front to-back? When this happens, the lens ends up focusing images in front of the retina (the layer of light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eyes) rather than on the retina. The result is that distant objects become unfocused. Another common cause of myopia is a cornea or lens that is too curved for the length of the eyeball. In some cases, a person may have eyeballs that are both long and curvy.

Looking closely on childhood

Scientists aren’t sure why the eye grows too long, though it could be hereditary. As for the sharp rise in the presence of shortsightedness, several studies indicate that greater amounts of time spent reading, writing and working on computers, and less time outdoors, may contribute. Other effects of myopia include holding a book too close or sitting very near the TV. If you see your kids doing this, suggest they move away or take a break. This may also be a good time to schedule an eye exam, to play it safe. Childhood shortsightedness often stabilizes by early adulthood, but in some cases, the condition progresses with age.

Standard myopia: So far, so good

For folks who have standard myopia, the prognosis is good. It usually can be easily corrected with glasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery. You might not even need glasses or contact lenses all the time, depending on the severity of the shortsightedness. Once corrected, the condition usually doesn’t compromise a kid’s academic performance. That being said, because it can progress, myopia should not be ignored. If you have trouble seeing things far away, find yourself (or your kids) squinting at the distance, or if you experience eye strain and/or headaches, schedule a comprehensive eye exam.