Nearsightedness, or myopia, is a visual condition in which patients cannot see clearly in the distance however, can see clearly at near. The level of vision a person has at distance or near varies depending on if the patient has mild, moderate, severe, or extreme myopia. A mildly myopic person for example, may just lack fine details while looking in the distance where as a moderate to severely myopic person may only see color and movement looking at the same distance. Near vision can be very good in a mildly myopic patient allowing them to see an object clearly at 16 inches however, a severely myopic person may have to hold the same object an inch in from their face to see it clearly.
Nearsightedness occurs for a combination of reasons. In general, the power of the eye is too strong so the focal point of the eye is very close to the face. The reason the focusing power is too strong is due to one or more of the following factors. Either the eye is too long, the lens of the eye is too powerful, or the curve of the cornea is too steep. All three result in a very short focal point. The more nearsighted, the shorter the focal point.
For children the risk factors for becoming nearsighted include having one or both parents who are myopic, performing excessive near work such as reading or using digital devices, and spending little time outdoors. Individuals that typically become moderate to severely nearsighted are children that are more nearsighted than the age expected normal and those that show progression of nearsightedness more than 0.75 diopters (D) per year.
Current statistics and predictions regarding nearsightedness are alarming. Researchers at the Brien Holden Vision Institute in Sydney, Australia, analyzed data from 145 studies on nearsightedness from 1995 to 2000. The analysis concluded that 23% of the total global population or 1.4 billion people are nearsighted. The same research group looked at data trends from 2.1 million study participants and predicted that this figure will climb to 4.8 billion by the year 2050. That would account for 49.8% of the world’s population!
Nearsightedness and its progression is a concern because of several factors. Most importantly, the increase in incidence of myopia among young people is exploding. Most of us take for granted that we can wake up see the alarm clock, watch TV, drive and play sports and work without vision correction. Nearsighted people cannot perform these activities without glasses or contact lens. Myopic individuals also have a higher incidence of eye health complications associated with nearsightedness. For example, as a person becomes more nearsighted, the axial length of the eye increases causing the retina to stretch and become thinner. Stretching and thinning of the retina makes the eye more susceptible to retinal holes and tears. These conditions can lead to retinal detachment resulting in total or severe vision loss. Glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness in the US, is also more common in nearsighted patients. Finally, myopic macular degeneration, which is similar to age-related macular degeneration, may also occur and result in central vision loss. Research shows that reducing nearsightedness by 1 diopter can reduce these risks by 40%.
At Cockrell Eyecare, our goal is to play a role in reducing the incidence of nearsightedness and help our patients become educated on how this works. We are calling March Myopia Control Month for our Eye-To-Eye column. Please plan to visit our column every Sunday this month we will discuss the research associated with the current clinical approaches to reducing the incidence of myopia. If you have questions please contact our office in Stillwater at 405-372-1715. We also invite you to visit our website at www.cockrelleyecare.com and like us on Facebook at Cockrell Eye Care Center!