Myopia or nearsightedness results in blurred distance vision from imprecise optics of the eye. Light entering the eye, from an object one is looking at, focuses in front of the retina instead of on the retina. Vision is worse far away than it is at near. Often myopia begins in childhood and increases through the growing years but it can advance at any age. Less frequently myopia can improve with time, sometimes in our older years.
Nearsightedness can be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, and refractive surgery. But can we prevent it altogether?
There have been many theories put to rest about the cause of myopia. Reading in the dark, reading too much , playing too many video games, sitting too close to the TV, and wearing glasses have all been cited as causes. My mother thought my brothers and I became nearsighted because we had the German measles (rubella) as young children. In reality, the true cause of myopia is still a bit of a mystery despite much research.
Myopia has an association with certain genetic disorders, birth defects and early vision deprivation. Some eye disease, such as keratoconus, and advancing cataracts can lead to increased nearsightedness. However, most of us who are nearsighted don’t have any of these conditions.
It is now being acknowledged that myopia is on the rise in the general population as illustrated in this Scientific American info-graphic article.
An obvious question is “Why?” Is it our family genetics, our excessive near work, our diet or something else? Research suggests that the cause is likely multifactorial, a catch-all phrase stating that we’re not really sure and it is likely a combination of factors that differ between individuals.
Some of the more recent research, much of it coming out of Asia where there is an unusually high prevalence of myopia in certain locales, suggests that spending more time outdoors can help reduce the risk for myopia. We have quickly become societies who are spending more and more time indoors. Spending an extra 40 minutes per day outdoors appears to have some benefit in reducing risk.
So the take home message is, have your children spend more time outdoors each day and have regular eye examinations to help them keep seeing their best. If you have questions or concerns about your own vision or that of your children, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.