Does Myopia or Nearsightedness Cause Blindness?
The word “myopia” is one that you may not be familiar with, but it is undoubtedly one that you should be aware of. Myopia, commonly referred to as nearsightedness, is a condition that impacts how well an individual can see objects in the distance. These far off objects will appear blurry or fuzzy. It’s estimated that between 11% and 36% of people are currently living with myopia and that number will likely only continue to grow. If diagnosed early enough, myopia is a condition that can be managed with certain treatments. However, in some cases, myopia can progress rapidly and lead to vision loss.
So, what causes myopia, and when should you seek help? Here are some important details that you should know.
What Causes Nearsightedness?
Myopia, nearsightedness, and short-sightedness all mean the same thing; you can see close up, but the farther away an object is, the harder it is to focus.
To some degree, everyone’s vision is limited to a distance of about three miles before the curvature of the earth prevents seeing any further. But those with myopia have trouble seeing further than the immediate vicinity and is worse depending on how high the myopia is.
As light enters the eye through your pupil, it is focused by the lens in the eye to create a focal point. This focal point in an eye with normal vision falls on a light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eyeball called the retina. The retina then converts what it sees to electrical signals that the brain processes, allowing you to understand the world around you.
The length from the front of the eye to the back is called the axial length, roughly 24.4mm for normal vision. Your axial length and whether it’s too long or short for that focal point to fall in the correct position on your retina determines whether you need vision correction.
For nearsighted people, the axial length is too long, so the focal point falls short, preventing their eyes from focusing on objects further away.
If your axial length measures just slightly longer than average, you’re considered having mild to moderate myopia. However, if your axial length is longer than 26mm, your optometrist or ophthalmologist may be on high alert.
What seems like a short distance in your eye would translate to a prescription of around -6.00 diopters. A small handful of highly nearsighted prescriptions like these can lead to degenerative myopia, which, if left untreated, could lead to blindness.
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What is Degenerative Myopia, and What To Do About It
Degenerative myopia only occurs in about 1.7 to 2.1% of the population, so it’s not something that will happen to most people and not something that most people should worry about developing.
However, myopic degeneration must be taken seriously for those with a genetic predisposition because of a family genetic history of the disorder. In extreme axial length cases, there can be pathological damage to the eye because of extreme stretching in the white part of the eye, called the sclera, and in the retina.
Extreme cases of myopia may also lead to other complications, including:
- Retinal detachments.
- Choroidal Neovascularization (CNV).
Therefore, your doctor should monitor all cases of myopia to offer treatment that will prevent its progression.
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Treatments Options for Myopia
Although there is not a permanent cure for myopia, there are several steps that you can take to manage the condition. Our eye doctors go to great length to work with you on a personal level so that we can help to determine the best course of action that is best for you. Here are a few examples of treatment options for myopia or nearsightedness that we offer:
- Orthokeratology (Ortho-K)
Ortho-K is also known as corneal reshaping therapy. This form of treatment involves custom designing a rigid gas permeable lens that you wear when you’re sleeping. While you wear them, the lenses gentle reshape the cornea of your eye which allows for daytime correct of nearsightedness or myopia. This option allows patients to engage in the activities that they love such as sports without worrying about wearing contacts or glasses. This treatment is very effective at slowing the progression of myopia.
- MiSight Lenses
MiSight lenses have been shown in several studies to slow myopia in children, as well. There are several reasons why MiSight lenses may be the perfect option for your child including the fact that they are easy to use and specifically designed to be worn just once. Further, these contacts are great option for a child who may feel a sense of insecurity when it comes to wearing glasses.
- Atropine Treatments
Atropine treatments are used in coordination with wearing traditional glasses or contacts. Atropine drops are designed to relax the eye which can ultimately slow the progression of myopia.