I’m seeing (sorry for the pun) more patients with myopia, or nearsightedness, lately. And it’s not just me. Actually, it’s a worldwide phenomenon.
According to a recent article in the journal Nature, about half of young people in the United States and Europe have myopia. That’s almost twice the level of 50 years ago. And the myopia epidemic is really raging in Asia. Up to 90 percent of teenagers and young adults in China are nearsighted. In Seoul, South Korea, more than 96 percent of 19-year-old men have myopia.
What Is Myopia?
People with myopia typically can see close objects, such as books or computers held at arm’s length, with little or no problem. But they have a hard time reading road signs or making out far-away objects. Driving may be especially challenging.
Other symptoms of nearsightedness include:
- Eye fatigue or strain
Eyeball Shape Is to Blame
Myopia is caused by a defect in the eyeball that causes it to be slightly longer than normal. This makes the eye lens focus light from distant objects just in front of the retina, instead of on its surface. Nearsightedness also may develop if the cornea or lens of the eye is too curved.
If myopia is severe, the inner parts of the eye may stretch and thin, upping the chance of retinal detachment, cataracts, glaucoma and, in rare cases, blindness.
Since the eye grows during childhood, nearsightedness usually develops in children or teenagers. It tends to stabilize by adulthood, but in some cases it continues to get worse with age.
Research Ramps Up
Because the number of people with myopia is growing so quickly, scientists are stepping up research on causes and treatment. So far, we don’t have concrete answers. Some theories about the causes of nearsightedness include:
- Having parents or grandparents with myopia
- Spending too much time indoors
- Staring at electronic screens for long periods
What Can Be Done?
Myopia usually can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. Sometimes surgery is recommended.
Be sure you and your children have regular eye exams. If your vision changes between exams, or your glasses no longer seem to correct problems, make an appointment with your eye doctor as soon as possible.
Dr. Matthew Wilkening is an optometrist at Kelsey-Seybold’s Meyerland Plaza Clinic. He’s accepting new patients and welcomes the opportunity to help patients maintain or improve their vision. He’s a certified Therapeutic Optometrist and Optometric Glaucoma Specialist.